By Grant Welker
SHIRLEY -- The Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center remained in lockdown Tuesday as officials investigated an incident Monday in which several correction officers were injured, including one who was stabbed in the neck.
No visits to the prison were being allowed until further notice, according to an automated message on the prison's phone system. The incident was being investigated by the state Department of Corrections and the Worcester County district attorney.
The number of correction officers injured was in dispute, although all but one were said to be out of the hospital. The state Department of Corrections said seven officers were injured, and the officers' union, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, said eight were hurt.
The officer who remained hospitalized was in stable condition after undergoing surgery to remove a homemade metal shank from the back of his neck, union President Brian Jansen said.
An inmate suspected in the stabbing was in custody, said Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.
The prison, which at the start of 2011 had more than 1,200 inmates, is probably the most dangerous in the state for officers, Jansen said. Monday's incident brings the total number of officers assaulted this year at Souza-Baranowski to 25, he said.
"It's a much bigger incident than the department has tried to portray to the public," said Jansen, whose union includes
Souza-Baranowski has about 450 officers, according to the union.
Monday's incident could be the effect of an increase in how many inmates are allowed out into each block at a time, Jansen said. Until 2009, the standard was no more than 30, but the prison later double-bunked cells and now allows up to 90 inmates in a block out at a time, he said.
The incident Monday took place when inmates were out of their cells.
The maximum-security prison has had a series of incidents in recent years.
In November 2009, a guard was stabbed and two others were assaulted by an inmate. Four officers were transported to a hospital.
In August 2010, an inmate was stabbed in his cell, allegedly by another inmate.
In April 2011, a prisoner hanged himself in his cell.
And three times this past spring, Souza-Baranowski received mail containing a white powder, none of which was found to be dangerous.
Monday was the first day for the prison's new superintendent, Bruce Gelb, who had been the superintendent at MCI Concord. Former Superintendent Anthony Mendonsa, an employee with the Department of Corrections since 1978, was removed from his position June 8 after being appointed to the job last November.
State Sen. James Eldridge, a Democrat from Acton whose district includes Souza-Baranowski, said he has talked with a legislative liaison to the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union and has reached out to the liaison to the Department of Corrections. He said he was waiting to hear more details on Monday's incident before commenting on specifics.
"In terms of how we prevent this from happening, that's something I'll be taking a look at," Eldridge said.