After a fight inside the Souza Baranowski prison in Shirley, Massachusetts, groups of inmates refused to be locked back in their cells and started a riot, which lasted about 3 hours and prompted the evacuation of all security personnel in the unit.
The prison, which is the current home of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez, was put on lockdown after 46 inmates caused significant damage to the prison’s P1 Unit.
After the riot was subdued, prison officials told FOX25 the unit was a “total loss.”
Pictures posted to the Mass DOC Facebook page Tuesday morning showed the aftermath of the riot.
“Sprinkler heads were broken off, camera systems were destroyed, the computer system in the unit was destroyed along with extensive damage to other parts of the unit,” DOC Commissioner Thomas Turco said.
In Tuesday’s post, Mass DOC officials said disciplinary sanctions will be brought against the inmates who were involved.
|The aftermath of the prison riot. (Massachusetts Dept. of Corrections)|
Video shows prison riot; inmates were "getting ready for war"
BOSTON -- Rioting inmates armed themselves and “were getting ready for war” during a disturbance at a maximum security prison in Massachusetts, the state’s top public safety official said Tuesday.
The riot at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center began with a Monday afternoon fight between two inmates and quickly escalated when 47 inmates refused orders to return to their cells. The disturbance ended about three hours later after a state police response team flooded the unit with pepper spray and the inmates gradually gave up, prison officials said.
Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is an inmate at the prison, according to the state’s online records, but officials said confidentiality rules prohibit them from saying whether he was housed in the unit where the disturbance took place or whether he was involved in any way. Sources told CBS Boston he is housed in a different unit.
Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett said the decision to remove guards from the scene after a second fight broke out prevented serious injuries.
“When it was apparent the prisoners were not going to go back into their cells, the (officers) backed out of the unit to make sure there was no violence and no one got hurt,” Bennett said.
After the guards left the unit, Bennett said nearly four dozen inmates began smashing tables and other furniture, removing fire extinguishers from walls and destroying computers in the area where the officers normally would be stationed. Security video captured before camera systems were destroyed showed inmates fashioning makeshift knives, clubs and other weapons out of the broken items. Bennett said the prisoners intended to attack corrections officers with the weapons.
“They armed themselves,” Bennett said. “They were getting ready for war.”
Photos show extensive damage to the housing unit, which was declared a “total loss,” the station reports.
The maximum security prison in the central Massachusetts town of Shirley houses about 1,000 inmates, many of whom were convicted of murder and other serious crimes. Hernandez was convicted of murder in a 2013 shooting and is facing another trial on separate murder charges in the 2012 killing of two men in Boston.
Corrections officials said the original fight involved two inmates who had been deliberately housed in different units. It was unclear what started the fight, but officials described the two men as “high-ranking members” of a group considered a security threat within the general prison population.
When a fight erupts, protocol is to immediately get all prisoners back in their cells to prevent, for example, a larger fight from developing between rival gangs, Bennett said.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker commended prison staff and police for ending the riot without serious injuries to staff or inmates.
“You can always replace furniture and stuff like that,” he said.
A 13 percent drop in the state’s overall prison population has allowed officials to reposition some corrections officers in the prison system, Baker said, adding he’s satisfied with staffing levels at Souza-Baranowski.
The prison remained in lockdown on Tuesday, officials said. The inmates involved will face disciplinary sanctions and criminal charges could be filed, according to CBS Boston.
Inmates at Shirley, Mass., prison subdued after riot, destruction
A fight at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., led to a riot in which inmates destroyed prison property such as computers, windows and surveillance cameras, corrections officials said.
The Massachusetts Department of Correction said the incident started Monday afternoon in the prison's P-1 housing unit when two inmates who were considered "high-ranking members of a security threat group" began to fight.
Once the fight ended, corrections officers attempted to escort about four dozen inmates back to their cells before a second altercation occurred between two other prisoners. Further difficulties in establishing order led to officials evacuating officers out of that section.
"One of the inmates was able to be restrained and escorted from the unit and the remaining inmates were actively resisting being secured in their cells," the statement said. "The decision was made to pull the staff from the housing unit for their safety."
Inmates started creating weapons and destroying prison property after officers left. A team from the prison's special operations unit regained control of the section at about 8 p.m. by using tear gas after negotiations to calm the situation failed.
"Sprinkler heads were broken off, camera systems were destroyed, the computer system in the unit was destroyed along with extensive damage to other parts of the unit," Department of Corrections Commissioner Thomas Turco said, calling it a "total loss."
Department of Corrections spokesman Christopher Fallon said the housing unit was completely damaged.
Daniel Bennett from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said inmates "ripped a computer apart, created knives and shivs out of different parts of normal items around the tier, and they were getting ready to have the corrections officers come in."
"Sprinkler heads were broken off, camera systems were destroyed, the computer system in the unit was destroyed, along with extensive damage to much of the remaining parts of the unit," the Department of Corrections said. "Inmates utilized fire extinguishers and other makeshift weapons in order to destroy furnishings, windows, etc."
The Department of Corrections said there were no serious injuries to inmates or staff members. The prison remained on lockdown as of Tuesday morning.