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Rep. Tyler Fights for the Rights of Boston's Prisoners

"State lawmaker connects Souza-Baranowski unrest to Boston violence, an allegation prison authorities reject" writes Danny McDonald of the Boston Globe


A state lawmaker contends that recent unrest at a maximum-security prison in Shirley that unfolded in the wake of a brutal attack on correctional officers last month has led to violence on the streets of Boston, an accusation that prison authorities say is unfounded.


State Representative Chynah Tyler, a Democrat whose district includes Roxbury, the Fenway, and parts of the Back Bay, made the allegations in a Monday letter to Governor Charlie Baker. She did not cite specific instances of violence in Boston in the letter. She did say she had made an unannounced visit to the Shirley prison on Jan. 31 and that she had received “the personal testimony of the inmates.”


In the letter, Tyler said inmates told her that rival gang members were forced to live in the same units at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in the aftermath of the Jan. 10 attack. She asserted that this move "caused more violence from inside the facility to spill into our streets, making this a public safety emergency.”


Massachusetts Department of Correction spokesman Jason Dobson said in a Monday night statement that the agency welcomes "the opportunity to meet with legislators,” adding that the department is focused on the "safety of inmates, staff, and visitors to DOC facilities.”


"The department moved placements for inmate safety and rejects the unfounded accusation that this is connected to recent street violence,“ said Dobson.


On Jan. 10, an attack at Souza-Baranowski sent four correctional officers to the hospital. Prison authorities have said in court documents that one officer suffered head trauma and a badly broken nose, while another had a broken jaw and broken vertebrae in his neck during the attack. Officials have said that inmates tried to take an officer hostage by dragging him into a cell, but the officer broke free.


Now, Tyler is asking the governor for a list of all inmates who were displaced from their units and the units they were transferred to since the melee. Her Jan. 31 visit to the facility "has given me little confidence in the DOC’s management of this situation moving forward,” she said in the letter.


"I question the DOC’s ability to appropriately fulfill their mission of ensuring the safe and successful re-entry of the individuals in their custody back into our community,” Tyler said.

Advocates have alleged the attack on the guards led to a retaliation on prisoners. In her Monday letter, Tyler calls the DOC’s actions at Souza-Baranowski in recent weeks "misguided” which she said "may reflect some officers’ desire to retaliate against those involved.”


In the weeks after the Jan. 10 incident, three Souza inmates along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a lawsuit alleging misconduct by staff and requesting a preliminary injunction ordering the prison to permit prisoners to keep legal paperwork in their cells; that they be given sufficient time outside their cells during business hours to make attorney phone calls; and have contact visits with their lawyers.


In response to the lawsuit, authorities said officials at the Shirley prison were responding to "credible threats” of planned violence when they temporarily restricted inmates’ access to lawyers and confiscated personal legal documents.


This piece is an excerpt of an article written in the Boston Globe. Read the full article at https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/02/11/metro/state-lawmaker-connects-souza-baranowski-unrest-boston-violence-an-allegation-prison-authorities-reject/

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24 Beacon St, Room 155
Boston, MA, 02133


Chynah.Tyler@mahouse.gov

Office: (617) 722-2450

Personal: (617) 942-1213

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