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 Latest coverage

October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Protective custody units often see volatile inmate mixes

By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 8/27/2003

 Related stories
Geoghan killed
10/2/2003
Geoghan's sister criticizes guards

10/1/2003
Geoghan's sister to speak

9/27/2003
Victims protest conviction erasure
Druce is hospitalized again
Guards' ad seeks understanding

9/24/2003
Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

9/20/2003
Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

9/14/2003
Report describes Druce in a rage

9/13/2003
Letter says Druce abused as boy

9/12/2003
Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

9/11/2003
Expanded Geoghan panel sought

9/8/2003
Druce is returned from hospital

9/7/2003
McNamara: A back-page death

9/5/2003
Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

9/4/2003
Conflict issue raised on consultant

9/3/2003
Bias concerns are raised in probe

9/2/2003
No new members seen for panel

8/31/2003
Geoghan panel will be expanded

8/29/2003
Group assails prison guards
Geoghan is buried in Brookline
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

8/28/2003
Priest in 'aggressive' case unit
Records show Druce as deviant
Voiding of record is challenged

8/27/2003
Bid to keep Geoghan at Concord
Geoghan's death voids conviction
Prison units see volatile mixes
US attorney won't rush decision

8/26/2003
Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

8/25/2003
Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
Similiarities in suspect's '88 crime
Priest seen as a prison target

8/24/2003
Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

 Documents
Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

1/6/2003
Church allowed abuse for years

1/19/2002
Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

2/22/2002
Geoghan receives 9-10 years

5/9/2002
Law recalls little on Geoghan case

9/19/2002
Geoghan victims settle for $10m

 Complete coverage
The John Geoghan case

They are supposed to be sanctuaries for the Department of Correction's most vulnerable inmates.

But in reality, the state's two special protective custody units house a sometimes dangerous mix of criminals, from jailhouse snitches to former gang members to mentally ill inmates convicted of notorious crimes.

Defense lawyers said yesterday that inmates in protective custody all too often are targeted for attack by violent inmates also in the protected unit.

Defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, a convicted child molester who was elderly and frail, was murdered while in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. Authorities say Geoghan was targeted and killed by a fellow inmate with a known violent hatred for homosexuals.

"It's pretty standardless," Andrew Good, vice president of the state Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said of the process through which inmates end up in the protective unit. "There's no hard bright lines that the DOC uses to say who qualifies. . . . Sometimes they will use it as a punitive area. Rather than confine all the potential victims, you confine the victimizer, then you wind up with a mix -- an unhealthy, dangerous unit with a combination of victimizer and victims."

Kelly Nantel, a Department of Correction spokeswoman, said that the department tries hard to manage the difficult mix of inmates that end up there by examining the threat levels of each inmate on a case-by-case basis.

"Obviously it is a challenge to try to manage that type of a population," she said. "Through the classification process and through our review, we have steps in place to take a look at inmates, to ensure that they have no enemy situation when they are placed in that unit."

Nantel also said that the department is mandated by law to provide as "normal" a prison experience as possible for those in protective custody, since a 1978 Supreme Judicial Court ruling in favor of inmates who sued for the right to socialize with other protected prisoners.

Until this February, the medium-security protective unit at MCI-Concord was the only specially built unit in the state system for vulnerable prisoners, although most prisons have areas to segregate inmates. Largely a home for pedophiles whose names have become household words, the MCI-Concord cell block is home to Christopher Reardon, the Middleton youth group leader convicted of preying on dozens of boys, Charles Jaynes, the man who murdered 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, and Ronald Paquin, a defrocked priest convicted in connection with the sex abuse scandal, according to a relative of one of the inmates. Department of Correction records confirm those inmates are housed at MCI-Concord, but do not specify whether they are in the protective custody unit.

Geoghan once lived there, too, and was allowed to mingle with other protected inmates for the majority of the day. But like others on that unit, he feared his food was being contaminated. That's a common complaint from those in the PC unit at Concord, who occupy the bottom rung of the prison social hierarchy and eat as a group in a cafeteria line staffed by other prisoners.

"The day you walk in there, you are marked," said Joseph Balliro, a criminal defense attorney who has had several clients assigned to the unit.

Earlier this year, numerous disciplinary complaints prompted Geoghan's transfer to the newly built, maximum-security protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski, the state's newest prison, which opened on the grounds of MCI-Shirley. A relative of a Concord inmate who served with Geoghan said the priest was transferred because a guard at MCI-Concord disliked him and gave him a large number of "tickets," or disciplinary reports, as a form of harassment.

There, Geoghan shared a common area three hours per day with about two-dozen inmates, including a former police officer and Joseph L. Druce, the man who was serving a life sentence for killing a man he believed to be homosexual. Those men seldom see members of the general prison population, except when they are transported to court in DOC vans.

Unlike the protective custody units in New Hampshire, where only three or four inmates are allowed to mingle at a time, all the cell doors in Geoghan's new unit open at the same time so that all the unit's inmates can talk to one another while returning their lunch trays.

Several lawyers said yesterday that Geoghan's slaying at the hands of a fellow inmate demonstrates that Massachusetts should reinstate a policy of segregation of serial sex offenders in the treatment center at Bridgewater State Hospital. From 1954 to 1990, nearly all such inmates were sent there, but that practice ended more than a decade ago when a special commission concluded that the treatment didn't work, said John Swomley, a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in representing sex offenders.

Balliro agreed, saying he had gotten numerous complaints from clients about being abused by other inmates in protective custody.

"They are exposed oftentimes, just as Geoghan was, to the more violent inmates," he said. "There's enough contact to make the whole thing very dangerous."


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