16 Souza prisoners charged in attack on guards

Worcester DA includes kidnapping among charges

WORCESTER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY Joseph Early Jr. on Thursday charged 16 prisoners at the state’s maximum-security prison in connection with a violent January 10 attack on four correctional officers. 

According to video of the incident at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, the attack began with one prisoner punching a guard and knocking him to the ground. Other prisoners then joined in, punching and kicking the guard, who suffered head injuries. Three other guards were also injured in the melee. All four guards were hospitalized. Two guards suffered injuries requiring surgeries; only one of the four guards has been able to return to work. 

All 16 inmates were charged on a joint venture theory with each prisoner facing two counts of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and four counts of assault and battery on a corrections officer. Ten of the inmates face additional charges, including aggravated kidnapping, apparently for trying to drag a guard into a cell; aggravated assault and battery; and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, either a shod foot or a cane. 

Six inmates – Tabari Muhammed, Frank Webb, Marcus Muniz, Steven Gonzalez, Lennon Dossantos, and Israel Perez – faced only the basic assault and battery charges. 

Kidnapping and additional assault charges were filed against Carlos BastosElosko Brown, Alexander Soto, and John Mentor. Soto was accused of using a wooden cane. 

Additional assault and battery charges were filed against Jovani Molinari, Giovanni Buchanan, Yamil Narvaez Arroyo, Joshua Reyes, Pedros Solis, and Jason Velez Acosta. All of them were accused of using a shod foot as their weapon. 

The 16 inmates range in age from 23 to 33. Most of them were in prison on serious charges. Buchanan, for example, has a long criminal record, including possession of firearms and drugs, as well as armed robbery. He was sentenced to six to seven years in January for attacking a corrections officers in January 2019 at the Nashua Street Jail. 

Souza Superintendent Stephen Kenneway said in a court hearing last week that 23 prisoners were involved with the attack. It was not immediately clear why only 16 prisoners were charged in the indictment. 

Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said it took more than 40 days to file charges because so many people were involved.  “There were four victims and many suspects, and investigators had to make sure the correct offenses were being charged for each defendant,” he said 

The investigation of the incident was conducted by the State Police and the Department of Correction, which instituted an almost three-week lockdown of the prison after the attack.  

The union representing prison corrections officers has been pointing to the state’s criminal justice reform bill, enacted in 2018, as the cause of violence at the state’s maximum-security prison. The corrections officers’ union claims that attacks on staff are up 150 percent in the past year at the Shirley prison, which housed over 700 prisoners in January.  

“This is a direct result from the recently enacted Criminal Justice Reform Act legislation, which was promulgated by inmate rights groups and activists,” wrote Guy Glodis in a January press release, spokesman for the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.  

Lizz Matos, of the advocacy group Prisoners’ Legal Services, said previously that linking the attacking to criminal justice reform was “wrong, irresponsible, and damaging.” She added that reforms have barely been implemented by the Department of Correction at Souza. 

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Several prisoners at Souza filed a lawsuit against the Department of Correction after the incident alleging a lockdown prevented them from meeting with their attorneys and accessing their legal paperwork. Some also allege assault from correctional officers. The inmates are seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the agency to seek court approval prior to limiting attorney access during any future lockdown that lasts more than 24 hours.