Ex-Souza prisoner says he was abused
Lawmakers, lawyers ask for independent probe of facility
A FORMER PRISONER at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center who was released on February 14 said on Wednesday that he was subjected to abuse by tactical forces in the wake of a January attack on a group of guards in a separate unit of the Shirley facility.
Jason Schultz, who was incarcerated for assault, said he was handcuffed behind his back, eye-gouged, kicked in the ribs, and tased during the lockdown that occurred as a result of at least 16 inmates attacking four correctional officers in another unit. He said he was denied medical care for his injuries.
Schultz previously sued the Department of Correction over an earlier forced removal from his cell. That case ended in 2018 with one excessive force claim being dismissed and a second claim that his medical needs were ignored during the removal being granted.
Schultz, along with other former inmates, attorneys for inmates, and some lawmakers gathered for a briefing on the Souza situation at the State House on Wednesday but then decided to personally deliver a letter asking Gov. Charlie Baker, members of his administration, and US Attorney Andrew Lelling to investigate conditions at the state’s maximum-security prison. The Department of Correction and State Police are currently investigating the incident.
Members of the group of inmates, attorneys, and lawmakers said assaults on inmates have been widespread. Schultz put the number at 67, but Lizz Matos, executive director of Prisoners Legal Service, estimated there have been more than 125. She said there have been 80 more complaints about inhumane conditions.
“It’s unprecedented,” Matos said, adding that there were 44 total assaults last year.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, who hosted the event with Rep. Chynah Tyler of Boston, raised concerns about overuse of solitary confinement, something that the state’s 2018 criminal justice reform bill expressly prohibits. Eldridge said the Department of Correction has “found ways through emergency regulations to avoid implementing the law.”
Eldridge has made multiple visits to Souza since the end of the lockdown, meeting with over a dozen prisoners, including some he says had dog bites and obvious markings on their bodies and bruises.Baker’s office forwarded a statement from Department of Correction spokesman Jason Dobson that access to legal documents, mail, and phone service were all restored after a search of the facility. The statement said inmates have made all scheduled court appearances.
Schultz is not part of a lawsuit recently lodged by current inmates at Souza against the state about guard abuse and access to attorneys, which passed a major legal hurdle last Friday in Superior Court.