A Massachusetts prisoners’ rights group is criticizing the state’s correction officers union for its claim that criminal justice reform is to blame for a violent incident at a maximum security prison last week that left three officers injured, reports WBUR radio. “This is a direct result from the recently enacted Criminal Justice Reform Act legislation, which was promulgated by inmate rights groups and activists,” the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU) said. Advocacy group Prisoners Legal Services (PLS) called the union “wrong and irresponsible.” PLS drector Liz Matos said the 2018 act did not influence Friday’s incident at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility. A Department of Correction video shows an attack by inmates that injured three officers.
Matos said state correction officials haven’t implemented many reforms required under the law, such as limiting solitary confinement. Matos says her clients at Souza tell her that the prison is tense for both officers and inmates and there is still retaliation against those incarcerated over an August attack on a correction officer. The prison “has a long history of violence and a toxic culture,” she said. The union agrees it’s toxic — although not for the same reasons. Spokesman Kevin Flanagan says attacks at Souza are increasing. “The culture is the inmates,” Flanagan said. “They’re there because they’re bad. We’re not talking about jaywalkers. These are the commonwealth’s worst people. ” Flanagan says inmates should have to work for privileges like more phone calls or time off for good behavior. He says the criminal justice reform law should make exceptions for maximum security facilities like Souza-Baranowski. Both the union and the prisoners group are asking to meet with state lawmakers.