Mass. Department Of Correction Pt I

JULY 2005 - "The Summer Of '55" - It was 50 years ago, July 1955, and the new "escape-proof" maximum security Walpole State Prison was ready to open.

All
prisoners at the 150-year-old Charlestown State Prison were to be
transferred to Walpole, but first, Department of Correction officials
decided that several of Charlestown's correction officers needed to be
"educated" on how to run the new prison.

In
conjunction with the Department of Public Safety, correction officers
were sent to the State Police Academy in three staggered groups, of
about 27 each, for two-weeks of intensive training.

"The
training was more like that of a boot camp," recalled Red Porter, an
ex-Marine from Lawrence. "The drill instructors were the same
no-nonsense DI's that ran the school for state police recruits. In a
physical sense, that was great. We were mostly World War II or Korean
War veterans, and it helped us to get back in shape. But as later
events at Walpole proved, the schooling end at the Academy was of
little use. It was mostly so-called penal experts brought in to lecture
us on new theories."

"We were going
to open a new prison with new concepts," said Vic Anchukaitis of
Walpole. "The new commissioner of correction and the Walpole warden
were being brought in from other states which were 'more advanced' on
new concepts of penology. Massachusetts was considered to be backwards
in that regard. The State Police Academy was to be the first step in
re-educating us as correction officers. We did a lot of running, and
the firing range was a worthwhile refresher, but otherwise the best
thing about the two weeks was living in barracks and pulling the usual
pranks on each other."

"The State
Police DI's treated us pretty rough at first," said Hank Tremblay of
Methuen. "But then they backed off a little when they got to know us
and understood the politics of the situation... new prison - new look
and all that stuff. The DOC (Dept. of Correction) was heavily
publicizing this new modern training of COs. But all-in-all it was fun
ragging on each other, especially the guys who were puking after our
first hard run. We also had a laugh at some of the lecturers who
themselves had never worked in a prison. We left the Academy with some
great memories."

The transition of
inmates from Charlestown took place from August 1955 to February 1956.
But the new penology concept attempted at that time soon became a
failure at Walpole.

After being
locked in their cells except during work hours at Charlestown, the
convicts took full advantage of Walpole's campus-like freedom. Murders,
assaults, escapes and drugs plagued the new institution.

"Walpole
was supposed to be maximum security, but within the walls there was too
much freedom and lack of accountability. It became a battle for control
between the inmates and the officers," said Porter. "Every day it was
like going to work in a combat zone, especially the 3:00 to 11:00 PM
shift."

Over the years, backed by
the support of the Legislature, stringent rules were put in place, a
new commissioner and superintendent were named, and Walpole truly
became a maximum security institution. Although later legally named MCI
Cedar Junction, it is still commonly known as Walpole Prison.

Shortly
after 1955, the Department of Correction created its own training
facility, where new correction officers of the Commonwealth's 14
prisons and correction facilities must complete a comprehensive
nine-week training program before being assigned to a facility.

Of
71 officers who trained at the State Police Academy in 1955, 17 are now
deceased and the remainder are now retired and members of our
Association. Several later became parole officers and a few left to
work as firefighters or police officers in their home towns, but all
retain the common bond of the "Summer of '55."

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