Violence Against Prison Inmates Mounting

Inmates at Mid-State Correctional Facility Allegedly Abused, Beaten

In July 2016, corrections officers made a surprise raid in the early morning hours at medium security, Mid-State Correctional Facility near Utica, New York, according to officials.

The surprise search was made over weapons after a bloody injury to a guard a few days earlier, according to The New York Times and The Marshall Project (a nonprofit news organization covering the United States criminal justice system). Inmates were ordered to get down on the floor and, over the next two hours, officers beat them and stomped on the more than 30 of them, allegedly destroying property and screaming curses and racial slurs, according to the inmates. Some of the men said that their ribs were broken when they were kicked and punched.

One 58-year-old inmate told The New York Times/The Marshall Project that he was “rammed, headfirst, through the Sheetrock wall in his room.” In the same hallway, a 41-year-old inmate said his nose was broken because a guard continually smashed a metal door into his face. In an October 2016 interview in the visiting room of the prison, a 50-year-old inmate—serving a six-year sentence for robbery—told The New York Times/The Marshall Project that, as he lay on the floor, an officer knelt beside him, hissing, “You want to know what it feels like to feel weak?” According to the inmate, the guard shoved “something metal” into his rectum. The inmate said that, “It was bigger than a pen, about the size of those small flashlights they carry.” Meanwhile, at least two more inmates allege similar violations.

According to the inmates, they were warned against speaking and receiving medical treatment and were threatened with a similar guard attack. On November 2, a Marshall Project reporter asked about the episode, which resulted in the New York State’s corrections commissioner suspending the prison’s top two officials, the superintendent, and the superintendent’s deputy. An inquiry is pending, according to a New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman, who noted that its Office of Special Investigations and State Police officers were investigating both the dormitory raid and the July injury to the prison guard, The New York Times/The Marshall Project reported.

Meanwhile, the guards union maintains that the officer who was injured was the victim in a premeditated attack by two prisoners who are affiliated with the so-called “Bloods” gang, while inmates say that an unstable reclining chair is the culprit and that the two prisoners ran to help him, The New York Times/The Marshall Project reported. What’s more, there were no cameras, which is typical of state prisons and the injured officer, a Navy veteran in his mid-20s and a correction officer for two years, has been out on medical leave since he was injured.

Jack Beck, a director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit authorized by the state to monitor prisons, told The New York Times/The Marshall Project that the degree of the alleged attack was “surprising.” He added that, “Do guards retaliate when an officer is injured? Yes…. They come in and throw property around, smack people. But to significantly assault large numbers of people, that’s unusual.”

Parker Waichman LLP, a nationwide personal injury attorney firm has represented inmates allegedly injured or killed by prison guards during incarceration.

Trend of Alleged New York State Inmate Assaults Growing

The allegations made by the inmates at Mid-State are just the most recent in New York prisons. “Excessive use of force in prisons, we believe, has reached crisis proportions in New York State,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said, according to The New York Times. Bharara also announced charges in September against five officers who were accused of beating an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility in 2013.

Bharara’s office investigated the death of a Fishkill Correctional Facility inmate in 2015 following a serious altercation with officers. No charges resulted. In March 2015, three Attica Correctional Facility officers pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct following an unprovoked inmate beating. The inmate was left with numerous broken bones, The New York Times/The Marshall Project reported.

At the press conference, Bharara and the FBI officials who conducted part of the investigation, said the guards beat an African-American so savagely, he ended up with five broken ribs, skull fractures, and a collapsed lung, NPR reported. The FBI’s Bill Sweeney reported that guards tore out large pieces of the man’s dreadlocked hair. “One of the officers allegedly boasted of the group’s illicit conduct by referring to the dreadlocks ripped from” the inmate’s “scalp as ‘souvenirs,’ ” Sweeney said, according to NPR.

Violence Against Prison Inmates Currently On The Rise

Violence Against Prison Inmates Currently On The Rise

According to an October 2016 NPR report that cited video taken at the scene, about a half-dozen Caucasian corrections officers at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York confronted an African-American inmate. Allegedly, the officers yelled at the inmate, “Stay on the wall, do you understand me? Don’t move.” The inmate, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, appeared dazed and unresponsive, ultimately collapsing. He was contained and handcuffed and, although surrounded by officers, no one assessed his medical condition. Instead, officers dragged the man across a floor; his handcuffed arms were hyperextended behind his back. It took some time for medical personnel to understand that the inmate was in significant distress and for a responder to call out for an emergency bag. The man died after being hit on the head, but no officers were disciplined or charged. The video, filmed by a guard at the prison in 2010, was originally made public by The New York Times. Investigators allege officers then arranged an intricate cover-up, according to NPR.

New York Democrat, Daniel O’Donnell, previously opened a legislative hearing, describing a case in which corrections officers were accused of brutalizing an inmate. He said, “An inmate died, and after the inmate died, the official explanation was fabricated. And what we now know is that the inmate was in fact murdered—murdered by employees of the state of New York,” NPR reported. No charges have been filed; however, the U.S. attorney’s office confirms that it is investigating.

Reform advocates and even some legal experts, say guard violence has become a problem in prisons in New York State and nationwide, according to NPR. Meanwhile, New York has bolstered the internal affairs unit responsible for investigating state prisons; however, critics are seeking for the state Legislature to create an independent oversight agency to review cases in which inmates are harmed or killed by officers.

Were You Injured While in Prison?

There is much controversy over the way in which corrections officers may allegedly resort to disproportionate violence with little answerability. If you or someone you know suffered violence, or was killed, while serving prison time, there may be legal rights available. The prison injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are available and may reached at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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