BOSTON (CBS) – For the first time, we are hearing a first-hand account of what sparked that massive prison riot at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Facility in Shirley last month.
An inmate, who wants us to call him Anthony, told the story only to WBZ-TV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Cheryl Fiandaca.
He says it all started as a small dispute between the corrections officers and the inmates. “It came down to showers. Showers, simple as that,” he said.
That dispute quickly escalated to the point where the officers had to leave the facility. For three hours, dozens of inmates went on a rampage and took control of the prison.
Anthony, who was due to be released in a matter of days, stayed in his cell and watched the unrest unfold. “I had a really good vantage point,” he said. “I got a whole view of it; my food slot was open at the time. I sat there on my knees, watching.”
The 28-year-old was coming to the end of nine years in prison for armed robberies. He claims it all started earlier in the day when two men from different cell blocks got into a fist fight as they passed each other going in and out of the exercise yard. When the yard time was over, officers decided to lock the men in without allowing them to take showers. “Everyone got riled up and it hits a natural boiling point,” Anthony said.
According to Anthony, that boiling point led to a standoff with inmates refusing to be locked into their cells and widespread rioting, something he says could have been avoided if corrections officers had simply let the men shower. “You are getting a 15 minute shower and everyone would have been peaceful and happy and it would have just been another day in prison,” he said.
Anthony says inmates were not fighting each other and didn’t arm themselves for war, calling it civil disobedience. “People were reacting out of passion,” he said.
Anthony watched from his cell as corrections officers took back control of the prison. “I’ve never seen this show of force,” he said. “Bean bag guns, rubber bullet guns, laser beams right on you.”
When it was over, Anthony says the corrections officers got revenge, destroying everything the inmates had in their cells. “No one has a TV left in their unit, no sheets, no blankets. We were like animals and they cut off all our clothes, walking in our underwear,” he recalled. “I went home five days after this happened. I went home barefoot.”
After nine years of prison, Anthony left with a couple of pictures of his girlfriend and his cat.
The Department of Correction said a number of issues led to the decision to lock the inmates in. They say as part of the negotiations during the standoff, officials agreed to let inmates take showers after they complied with the lock-in.
An investigation is still ongoing, but so far correction officials say there has been no indication of officer misconduct and no officers have been disciplined.