Prison Officials’ Discretion and the 6th Amendment: What Lawyers Say is at the Heart of Souza-Baranowski Inmates’ Lawsuit Against DOC

Prison officials’ discretion and the Sixth Amendment: These are the two issues lawyers have said are at the heart of their case for inmates from a Lancaster correctional facility who are suing over allegations they had their legal materials taken away and access to attorneys limited.

Closing arguments were heard Wednesday afternoon in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston in the case of three incarcerated men at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, the sole maximum-security prison in the state. The plaintiffs included Carl Larocque and Tamik Kirkland as well as Robert Silva-Prentice, who appeared at this week’s hearing and accused a special operations tactical team at the facility of beating and tasing him without cause.

Two attorneys representing the three inmates argued prisoners’ right to counsel, guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment, and the alleged ability of correction officials to operate with little oversight in maintaining prison safety are at the crux of their case.

“The right to counsel is really the basis of our argument‚” Victoria Kelleher, one of the inmates’ lawyers, told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing. “People do have a right to counsel, a right to effective representation, and we can’t possibly do our jobs if we can’t see and speak to our clients.”

Silva-Prentice is one of several inmates at Souza-Baranowski who have claimed they were assaulted by prison staff in the wake of a Jan. 10 attack on four correction officers. Stephen Kenneway, superintendent of the facility, said the assault on the guards was planned and gang-related. He also alleged prison staff have received threats of murder, rape and hostage-taking since the facility was locked down after the attack.

It was during the roughly three-week lockdown that, inmates alleged, a tactical team stationed at the facility beat the incarcerated men, used dogs to intimidate them and deployed pepper spray and tasers on the prisoners inside their cells, according to state legislators who visited the facility in recent weeks. The public officials also claimed there were health and hygiene problems at the prison.


BY: Jackson Cote



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