Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
INSIDE LOOK: A housing unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
Prison guards are calling it "Match.Con."
The Department of Correction is moving forward with plans to install 400 bunk beds at one of the state's most dangerous prisons to accommodate more convicts, and sources tell the Herald the state is accepting requests from inmates who want to bunk together.
It's sort of like in college - except with murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and gangbangers at the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
One 20-year correction officer who's already paid plenty of visits to the hospital after inmate attacks is bracing for the worst if convicts have a say in picking roomies.
"I won't tell you that I'm afraid to go to work," said the guard, who said he thought he'd seen it all at the prison, from murder to guard assaults to personally being pelted with human waste. "There have been things that have occurred where I thought I would be seriously injured or killed.
"Once this happens, my ability to separate inmates is gone. It's gonna be ugly. It's gonna be a bloodbath."
The roommate request scenario, sources explained, raises several bad possibilities: Gangbangers teaming up. Couples making house in the Big House. Or even worse, jailbait forced to live with their abusers.
As one source put it "there are expected to be a lot of high-pressure sales."
Asked about the policy, DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin had only this to say: "Inmates do not make housing decisions. The DOC makes housing decisions."
And I'm sure the guards are thankful for that. But is DOC entertaining, soliciting or considering these cell-mate requests?
Wiffin again repeated her statement.
The bunk-bed plan stems from the prison overcrowding crisis. It involves moving the most dangerous inmates out of MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole and downgrading that facility to medium security.
Steve Kenneway, president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, confirmed that the superintendent at Souza-Baranowski is taking requests from inmates - and that the union has formally asked them not to.
Kenneway summed it up with one word: "disastrous."
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