Like the depiction of Hell having levels and circles, so too does Prison. In Massachusetts, administrators in the
maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correction Center have devised an intricate system for holding
incarcerated individuals in cellblocks that offer some privileges and few privileges.
Souza-Baranowski has divided the 1500 man institution into a North and South side; a Green and Gray side. The
North side is restricted housing, inmates wear gray and the South side, the green side, allow privileges like
personal property including a personal television, typewriter and personal clothing.
This separation allows prison officials to carry on a sick punishment without legislative or judicial review. These
restricted housing units on the North side of the institution are dehumanizing and possibly illegal. A violation of a
2018 Prison Reform Act which places certain duties and obligations on solitary confinement units. What prison
officials have done is rebrand and rename solitary confinement units.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Correction has changed the name and rebranded solitary confinement
many times. Most incarcerated individuals may remember the Segregated Housing Unit? The Special
Management Unit? Today it is The Behavior Assessment Unit. Each time the state legislature scrutinized the
Department of Correction some cellblocks are rebranded. It is shocking how desperately prison administrators
defend and rebrand their inhumane practices.
The worst example of this inhumane pattern and practice covering up mistreatment of prisoners is the North side
restricted housing units of Souza-Baranowski Correction Center.
Various cellblocks on the North side of the maximum security institution are dedicated to what amounts to
In N-1, for example, prisoners are double bunked. Only four cells are opened for recreation at a time. Privileges
are few. No television, personal clothing or simple appliances like headphones or typewriter. Canteen purchases
are limited and conditions are bleak and grim.
Guards need no real excuse to move a prisoner from the privileges of the South side of the institution to the Gray
side. Ironically, the entire facility has significantly more gang activity. Prison officials have lost control. Weapons
are common. The South side offers greater freedom of movement. Most inmate workers have institutional jobs on
the so called Green side.
There is despair and hopelessness on the Gray side; prisoner’s on this North side face disciplinary hearings, or
fight allegations. Many are placed on the Gray side without ever being found guilty of anything. An allegation
alone can place an inmate in the purgatory of the Gray side.
Prison officials established this bifurcation scheme in 2019 after a series of disturbances including protest’s
which left one cellblock destroyed and a high profile attack on Correction Officer’s.
The problem with this restrictive housing scheme apart from being inhumane and violates the law; courts are
loath to second guess prison administrators. Judges defer to prison administrators defending their operation of
these dangerous institutions.
The public is rarely allowed an honest look into these prisons. Although they cost taxpayer’s millions each year.
The public is vaguely aware of the nature of human suffering. But, the real horror of these places is too
frightening. These institutions are Hell on earth and serve their purpose. Prisons scare people. The fear of prison
is itself a deterrent against crime.
What the Massachusetts Department of Correction is doing with the restrictive housing units of the North side of
the Souza-Baranowski Correction Center is deplorable, cruel and unusual. A violation of the 2018 Prison Reform
Act and Massachusetts Constitution. And the public is unaware. Politicians are in the dark. Judges who would be
horrified defer to administrators to do the right thing. Guards and administrators keep their scheme a dirty little
secret far from public scrutiny.