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In a 1st for Massachusetts, some correction officers at this max security prison wear body cameras

Some correction officers are now wearing body cameras at a Massachusetts maximum security prison.

Fifty officers of the 450-member correctional staff at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster have been outfitted with the devices for the first phase of a $1 million program designed to increase transparency and improve safety in the prison.

"The use of this advanced technology in correctional settings has been shown to improve safety, provide valuable documentation for evidentiary purposes, resolve officer-involved incidents, and offer a useful training tool for the Department and its officers,” Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Carol Mici said in a statement.

The DOC said it will evaluate the technology in the first of two phases of the pilot program. After an assessment of issues, such as record retention and evidence collection, the second phase will review implementing the cameras.

It marks the first time Massachusetts correction officers have worn body cameras, and comes amid a continuing investigation of allegations of officers retaliating against prisoners at Souza, after a fight broke out in 2020 and three correction officers were injured.

"I actually think once instituted, it will be better for both correctional officers and incarcerated men and women," said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Senate chair of the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary. "And I'm hoping that the next administration will institute this across all state prisons."

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union opposed the program and has not commented on its implementation.

Gov. Charlie Baker's administration also awarded $2.5 million in grants this week to 32 communities to increase the number of police officers wearing body cameras. The grants will provide funding for 27 police departments to introduce new body camera programs, and for five to expand existing body camera programs. The largest grants of more than $200,000 will go to the Lawrence and East Bridgewater police departments.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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