Corrections officers at Souza-Baranowski to get body cameras for the first time
The change comes as leaders at the Department of Correction face two federal lawsuits alleging excessive force against prisoners.
The Boston Globe
By Mark Arsenault
January 27, 2022
Officers at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center will be equipped with body-mounted cameras for the first time as soon as this summer, in a $1 million pilot program announced Thursday by the state’s top public safety agency.
The trial program at the state’s only maximum-security institution “reinforces our commitment to advancing the safety of correctional officers and those entrusted to their care,” said Terrence Reidy, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, in a statement.
The announcement comes as leaders at the Department of Correction face two federal lawsuits alleging excessive force against prisoners at Souza-Baranowski and intense public scrutiny over a controversial extended lockdown two years ago.
The agency said the program has three objectives: To enhance communication and collaboration among DOC staff members; to improve interactions between staff and prisoners; and to strengthen “transparency and accountability.”
Prison experts say that videotaping interactions between officers and prisoners protects the prisoners from excessive force, and the officers from unfounded claims of abuse.
Jesse White, pro bono and policy counsel for the nonprofit group Prisoners’ Legal Services, said in a statement, “Our clients have long asked for body cameras to increase accountability and transparency, and we hope that this change will be helpful for the numerous incarcerated people who are injured by correctional staff every year.”
White said “the devil will be in the details” and the program will need built-in accountability to ensure that the cameras are used consistently in accordance with policy.
State Senator James B. Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who has filed legislation seeking to bring in civilian oversight of prisons and jails, called the program “a significant step forward for transparency” that he hopes will help change “the violent culture at Souza-Baranowski.”