Prison guards to wear body cameras at Souza

Prison guards to wear body cameras at Souza

By Deb Becker
January 27, 2022

Correction officers at Massachusetts’ beleaguered maximum security prison will soon wear body cameras.

The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security announced the pilot program Thursday, saying the cameras will strengthen transparency and accountability at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center.

“Implementing this BWC (body-worn camera) pilot program reinforces our commitment to advancing the safety of correctional officers and those entrusted to their care,” said Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy in a statement. “The program affords us the opportunity to explore how this technology can improve operational efficiency and enhance the value of transparency in our institutions.”

How many Souza officers would wear the cameras and how many cameras would be utilized in the program has not been finalized. The existing stationary cameras at Souza will remain in place.

The camera program comes as the state faces two federal lawsuits alleging that Souza prisoners were beaten after an assault on correction officers in January 2020. One suit, filed by attorney Patty Dejuneas, alleges that the Department of Correction conspired to punish prisoners after the assault. The suit claims the DOC deliberately violated its own policies on video recordings, and that correction officers can avoid being recorded when acting improperly.

Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts, which filed the other federal lawsuit over the 2020 violence at Souza, expressed some skepticism.

“The devil will be in the details,” Jesse White with Prisoners Legal Services said in a statement. “As there will have to be accountability when officers fail to use the cameras contrary to policy, as they have done for handheld video recordings, and we will need to ensure that video recordings are made available quickly to incarcerated people who have been assaulted and injured.”

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