Officer’s alleged assault on 86-year-old inmate shines light on graying prison population

The Boston Herald
December 29, 2018
By Alexi Cohan

MCI Souza-Baranowski prison guard Joseph Sampson, 35, of Westminster is charged with assault and battery with serious bodily harm on a person over the age of 60, after allegedly administering three punches on 86-year-old convict Paul Smith. Sampson was arraigned Dec. 21 in Clinton District Court, posted $500 cash bail and has been placed on paid administrative leave. Authorities have said only that there was an altercation between the pair.

Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, said many correctional officers are not equipped to handle the mental and physical health issues that elderly inmates pose. She said this leads to abuse and neglect among elderly prisoners.

“I think that officers often lack training and lack the experience to deal with that population, and that can lead to a lot of problems,” said Matos, who added that inmates, due to the stresses of prison life, tend to age more quickly than the regular population.

Matos said elderly inmates — despite histories of violent crime — are a low-risk population who are “fairly vulnerable to being assaulted by other prisoners and staff.” Overall, she said, Souza-Baranowski has a disturbing record of guard violence against prisoners of all ages — with her group receiving 163 complaints from inmates in the last two years.

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