Mass. inmate pulls edged weapon, slashes officer's throat

Corrections1 Staff

When an inmate at the maximum security Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Massachusetts learned he was to be double-bunked on Wednesday night, he pulled out a homemade weapon and slashed one of the escorting officers in the throat and stabbed another in the cheek.

Things could have gotten much worse if it were not for the actions of the second officer who, despite the cheek-stabbing, pulled his slit-throated brother to safety before the inmate could finish him off. Two other officers received minor injuries before the inmate could again be contained.

“It was a pretty heroic action,” said Steve Kenneway, president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, in an interview with the Boston Globe, adding that the officers were both released from the hospital early this morning after treatment for their wounds and were lucky to be alive.

At first glance, the incident looks simply like another violent out lash by an irrational prisoner. However, Kenneway told the Globe that the issue is far deeper than that:

Kenneway said the incident was just the latest in a string of violent episodes at the Souza-Baranowski facility since Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration made it the state's only maximum-security prison and then, in January, started double-bunking some inmates.

Calling the prison "out of control,'' Kenneway said, "This policy of double-bunking has caused chaos and this administration is incapable of admitting it's a bad plan."

Kenneway also told the Globe that there have been 30 to 40 assaults on correctional officers at the Souza-Baranowski prison since double-bunking began 10 months ago, and that in the first 18 days of October, officers confiscated 75 weapons from inmates.

The union plans to file a complaint in court to seek an order that would stop double-bunking at the facility, Kenneway said.

"It's dangerous. It's going to lead to the death of an officer or an inmate or both,'' Kenneway said.

Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, told the Boston Herald that “Souza Baranowski is a nightmare.”

“It’s a powder keg,” she said. “The department decided to put the cart before the horse and double-bunk a facility without thorough planning.”

Walker said a 31-year-old inmate suffered close to three dozen stab wounds in the neck, mouth and groin on Oct. 8 from an inmate wielding a homemade knife. “I don’t want officers stabbed. I don’t want my clients stabbed. I want that prison to be safe for everyone,” she said.

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