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Staff Writer

SHIRLEY — A corrections officer at MCI-Shirley, who was the subject of three investigations for his alleged actions during a near-riot last year, is back at work after serving a five-day suspension. The brief suspension came after the results of a recent two-day hearing were brought before Corrections Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy.

Officer Colin Hazard had been accused of misusing the public address system and making statements to inmates critical of a memo that decreased inmates’ free time away from their cells. His statements allegedly helped inflame a near-riot by more than 400 inmates during a lunch period in March 2006.

Massachusetts Corrections Officers Federated Union (MCOFU) officials and his defense lawyers argue that Hazard had locked down the inmates in his charge before they participated in the protest, and he had been exonerated of wrongdoing in two previous internal investigations. They argued there was an attempt to make Hazard a scapegoat for results of poor administrative techniques.

According to testimony at the hearing, corrections officers had been told to post the memo but had received no explanation for it or directive as to what to tell agitated inmates.

Hazard was detached from duty with pay for 10 months following the incident, costing taxpayers approximately $40,000, MCOFU President Henry Harris said, and it cost $300,000 to bring the institution back to normal.

“There needs to be at least some level of accountability for that type of waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Union corrections officers have been working without a contract for more than two years and MCOFU has called for Dennehy’s dismissal several times, including once during a union meeting in Shirley following last year’s incident. It has also called for the dismissal of MCI-Shirley warden Michael Thompson.

Rep. James Eldridge (D-Acton) made at least two unannounced visits to MCI-Shirley since last March.

Harris said in an e-mail following Hazard’s return to duty that Dennehy has neither removed nor disciplined Thompson or any other manager “with full knowledge that their reckless decision to post that notice to inmates led to the disorder ”

“The stress that Officer Hazard has endured over the past 10 months should not go unnoticed,” Harris wrote. “This situation is not uncommon. We have officers detached for long periods of time for frivolous, trumped-up charges and that is demoralizing and unacceptable.

“The officers we represent have the most difficult jobs in the commonwealth and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and this commissioner has failed to provide that,” he wrote.

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