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7 Investigates: Assault on the inside

BOSTON (WHDH) – 7 Investigates staff shortages at Nashua Street Jail in Boston.  Correction Officers are speaking out about dangerous conditions that are made worse by 16 hour shifts.

“I could feel being hit. Something striking me in the the head.  At that point, I didn’t even know where I was,” said former corrections officer Matthew Robidoux. He said he never saw it coming, “when I opened my eyes, I saw blood all over the ground.”

Robidoux was working at the Nashua Street jail in 2019 when his life – and his face – changed forever.

“Plastic surgery. They had to rebuild this nose,” Robidoux said.

Exclusive video obtained by 7 Investigates shows the frightening attack.

“The outside people don’t know the truth unless we tell them. And they will never know the truth unless we tell them. Period,” said another former corrections officer who wants to remain anonymous. He said these kinds of assaults are too common at Nashua Street.

“I have seen officers really, really, really take a beating inside. Lips are swollen, fractured cheekbones, unconscious. They’re totally knocked out,” he said.

Former Shift Commander Michael Walsh remembers responding to an assault on a female officer.

“I get in there and I held– she had lumps on her head. I grabbed ahold of her, and her whole body was trembling.”

Keeping order behind bars is a dangerous and demanding job. Officers say they’re being forced to do it while exhausted.

“Someone’s going to get hurt,” Robidoux said. “They ain’t going to be 100 percent when they have to defend themselves.”

Robidoux was attacked during a 16 hour shift. 

“We call it, being drafted. You are not working just 16 hours. And if you get out after 16 hours, you are lucky. Go play the lottery,” the anonymous CO said.

On the schedule board at the jail, each yellow tab represents an officer who must work a double shift.

Officers say if they don’t obey draft orders they can be suspended – even fired.

“We have staffing challenges here, definitely,” said Superintendent Michael Colwell.

Colwell runs the jail and agrees it can be a dangerous place.

“Yeah, that’s an unfortunate reality to this business. Some of the people that we house are violent offenders.”

He admits officers are being mandated to work multiple 16 hour shifts in a row but, he does not agree that extra hours make officers more vulnerable to attacks.

“I don’t think we’ve established any tie-in to say, hours of work and inmate misconduct,” Colwell said.

The jail is short-staffed due to the pandemic, retirements and a lack of applicants.

Officers who have been attacked inside the jail say that staffing shortage puts them at risk.

“The thing is they need to go home to their family, and that’s the main mission … we need to go home safe every day. And it should be at the end of 8 hours,” Robidoux said.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department said they are taking steps to fix the staffing crisis inside the jail.

They are now running four different training programs for people who want to become officers and they have promised the next thirty graduates will go directly to Nashua Street.

(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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