BOSTON (WHDH) – 7 Investigating staff shortages at Nashua Street Jail in Boston. Correctional officials speak out about dangerous conditions made worse by 16-hour shifts.
“I could feel myself being hit. Something comes to my mind. At that point I didn’t even know where I was,” said former correctional officer Matthew Robidoux. He said he never saw it coming, “when I opened my eyes I saw blood all over the floor.”
Robidoux was working at the Nashua Street Jail in 2019 when his life — and his face — changed forever.
“Plastic surgery. They had to rebuild that nose,” Robidoux said.
Exclusive video obtained from 7 Investigates shows the scary attack.
“People out there don’t know the truth unless we tell them. And they will never know the truth unless we tell them. Period,” said another former law enforcement officer who wished to remain anonymous. He said these types of attacks were too common on Nashua Street.
“I saw officers get really, really, really beaten up inside. Lips are swollen, cheekbones are broken, unconscious. They’re totally knocked out,” he said.
Former shift commander Michael Walsh recalls how he responded to an assault on a police officer.
“I got in there and held – she had lumps on her head. I grabbed her and her whole body was shaking.”
Maintaining order behind bars is a dangerous and demanding job. Officials say they are forced to do so when they are exhausted.
“Someone’s going to get hurt,” Robidoux said. “They won’t be 100 percent if they have to defend themselves.”
Robidoux was attacked during a 16-hour shift.
“We call it being drafted. They don’t just work 16 hours. And if you get off after 16 hours, you’re in luck. Go play the lottery,” said the anonymous CO.
On the prison schedule board, each yellow tab represents an officer working a double shift.
Officers say if they don’t follow draft directives, they can be suspended or even fired.
“We definitely have staffing challenges here,” said Superintendent Michael Colwell.
Colwell runs the prison and agrees it can be a dangerous place.
“Yes, that is an unfortunate reality in this business. Some of the people we accommodate are violent offenders.”
He admits officers are assigned to work multiple 16-hour shifts back-to-back, but disagrees that working overtime makes officers more vulnerable to attacks.
“I don’t think we’ve made a link between working hours and inmate misconduct,” Colwell said.
The prison is understaffed due to the pandemic, retirements and a shortage of applicants.
Officials who were attacked in prison say staff shortages put them at risk.
“The thing is they have to go home to their family and that’s the main job… we have to go home safely every day. And it should be at the end of 8 hours,” said Robidoux.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department said they are taking steps to resolve the prison’s staffing crisis.
They are now running four different training programs for people who want to be officers, and they have promised that the next thirty graduates will go straight to Nashua Street.
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