I-Team: Correctional Officers Union Says Half Members Cannot Prove Vaccination By Mandate Deadline

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BOSTON (TUSEN) – To master a prison, you need the kind of training correctional officers say National Guard personnel don’t have.

Kevin Flanagan, the legislative liaison for the Federated Union of Massachusetts Correctional Officers, told WBZ-TV Team I: “With all due respect to the men and women of the National Guard , we have highly trained correctional officers who have worked through the pandemic for 18 months and now say that 50 percent would be laid off, that’s not fair, it’s not fair. “

On Tuesday, anticipating that a number of correctional officers would miss the Oct. 17 deadline for mandatory immunizations, Gov. Charlie Baker activated 250 troops to help with potential staff shortages in state prisons.

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Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) sits on the Public Safety Committee and is heavily involved in prison reform. Eldridge says it’s pretty scary to put the military in jail.

“It could go on for many months and that is very concerning,” Eldridge said. “Correctional officers play a vital role in keeping our prisons safe. “

The union told the I-Team that about half of all correctional officers or more than 1,500 have failed to provide proof of the vaccine to the state. And many of those who have asked for an exemption have yet to have hearings.

Seeking to stop the dismissal process, the union is heading to a federal court. Corey Scadifi is the executive secretary of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union. He said the governor should suspend the mandate and work out the details.

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“We don’t want to see the militarization of our prisons, we don’t want to see 1,500 of our members laid off. We don’t think the state is prepared for the impacts this is going to have inside the prison system, ”said Scadifi. “We’re looking for a break so we can sort out some of these details. “

The state said the National Guard will start training this week, but will not be inside the prisons, but will provide transportation and security outside.

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But in the long run, the potential loss of half of all correctional officers working in state prisons is a concern for Eldridge.

“Correctional officers playing this vital role again, for many of them really need to rethink their resistance to being vaccinated,” Eldridge said. “And that’s the only way out of what is approaching a crisis in Massachusetts.”

The Department of Corrections said the governor’s order for the National Guard has no end date and will continue for as long as needed. The department also says it has the ability to move other staff around prisons, bring back retired correctional officers and has an academy class scheduled for January.

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