CO union: Understaffing made Bulger prison a powderkeg
“Violence breeds itself and inmates tend to keep feeding off it,” a union official said, adding the prison has 77 vacancies — more than half for CO positions
By Joe Dwinell
BRUCETON MILLS, W. Va. — The West Virginia prison where James “Whitey” Bulger was killed in a brutal beatdown is so dangerously understaffed a union official fears more violence could erupt.
“We have been screaming to Congress and the Senate to help us make the Board of Prisons hire,” Justin Tarovisky, executive vice president of the guard union at U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton, told the Herald last night.
“Violence breeds itself and inmates tend to keep feeding off it,” he added, saying the prison has 77 vacancies — more than half for CO positions.
The 89-year-old Bulger was beaten to death Tuesday with a padlock inside a sock, reportedly by two inmates tied to organized crime in Massachusetts who may have also attempted to gouge out his eyes. The mood inside “Misery Mountain,” as inmates call Hazelton, is volatile, Tarovisky said.
“It’s a very tough yard,” he said. “I’m worried about staff safety. ... This is the third suspected homicide in seven months. We usually have one a year.”
When asked if the inmates felt emboldened to attack Bulger just 11 hours after he arrived due to the guard shortage, Tarovisky said the outcome may have been different if they were fully staffed.
“Are you asking me if 42 officers could have stopped it?” he said, citing the number of open guard positions. “I would have felt better on that situation.”
Tarovisky also said he was “surprised” Bulger was dumped into the general population. The union executive added he personally didn’t know the notorious South Boston serial killer was coming to his maximum-security lockup.
He did say he treats all the inmates the same — but having more guards would have allowed for more frisking for contraband.
Bulger, serving life for 11 murders but was suspected of many more, was reportedly killed by a Mafia hitman from Springfield named Fotios “Freddy” Geas and a member of a North Shore drug gang.
The second suspect, Paul J. DeCologero, is connected to a notorious Burlington-based crime family that robbed rival drug dealers and once dismembered a teenage girl,The Boston Globe reported yesterday.
As the Herald reported yesterday, the FBI is probing Bulger’s murder and inmate visitations at the prison have been suspended.
One of the federal prosecutors who put Bulger behind bars said the it’s no surprise fellow cons wanted him dead — but it should never have happened.
“It’s not surprising the bad guys wanted to get him,” said Brian Kelly, one of the former federal prosecutors who tried Bulger in 2013. “There was a security lapse of some kind. It’s not typically how it happens.”
Kelly said Bulger’s “long saga” is over and he just hopes the loved ones of the murder victims can finally find some peace. “They’ve been through so much,” he added.