Prison superintendent cites protocols for actions
Calls Souza-Baranowski a very dangerous place
CITING PUBLIC AND CONFIDENTIAL Department of Correction protocols, the superintendent of the state’s maximum security prison said in a court hearing on Thursday that he had the authority to cut off inmate access to attorneys and legal work in the wake of an attack on four guards by a host of inmates.
The Department of Correction is being sued in Suffolk Superior Court by inmates who allege they were improperly denied access to their lawyers after a lockdown of the facility on January 10 following the attack on the correctional officers. Citing a “coordinated effort by gangs” and a concern about inmates taking hostages, officials say the entire prison was put on lockdown, all visits were prohibited, and cells were swept for potential weapons and contraband.
Victoria Kelleher, an attorney for the inmate plaintiffs, asked Stephen Kenneway, superintendent of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility, whether department policy allowed him to suspend attorney visits.
Yes,” he replied. “This is my right to do so.”
Kenneway said the January 10 attacks on correctional officers were particularly alarming. “I’ve never seen assaults like that in my 31 years [working for the DOC],” he said. He described the inmate attacks as a situation where he was concerned the fights would “bleed out” into other units.
The superintendent described Souza as very dangerous, with 600 serious reported incidents in the past year, including stabbings, arson, 300 assaults, and 240 self-injuries. He also said 87 assaults were reported on staff members in the past year. Kenneway described the self-injuries as “those inmates who tried to cut up or commit suicide.” Since he began working in his position last year, Kenneway said, four lockdowns have occurred at Souza, although he said he didn’t recall the length of each lockdown. But the threats to guards, he said, and to prison administration, continue. “I was threatened to be stabbed in the neck,” said Kenneway.
Pressed by Kelleher for details on the confidential disorder policy, an attorney for the Department of Correction said that it’s a “private policy she would be happy to share with the court,” but was not comfortable giving it to attorneys for the inmates.
“We can’t let that information out so an inmate can escape from the facility,” the attorney said.
After the hearing, Kelleher said she had grave concerns about the “secret policy,” saying the superintendent seemed to be relying heavily on that protocol to limit attorney access to clients for an extended period of time. “I have huge problems with that. I think it’s totally illegal,” she said.
Kenneway said he allowed noncontact attorney visits to resume on January 17. He said the visits were again suspended from January 21-24, while a search of inmates was conducted by a special operations tactical team.
Proceedings will continue next week as Carrone hopes to hear from the prisoners who filed the complaint.