FORT ANN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Great Meadow Correctional Facility on Thursday to discuss the uptick of lockdowns, which the facility was placed in after a fight Wednesday and incidents Thursday morning, and his comprehensive prison reform plan he plans to release in January.
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci said there was a 20- to 25-inmate fight that occurred Wednesday evening in the state maximum security prison’s yard.
John Roberts, northern president for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said about 10 canisters of tear gas were used to quell the melee.
The inmates in the fight received minor injuries, but no officers were hurt, Cuomo said.
Annucci added that there were two incidents Thursday morning that pushed Great Meadow Superintendent Christopher Miller to request the lockdown. The lockdown allowed tensions to cool, Annucci said, and allocated time to search each cell.
“Multiple weapons were found after the fight,” Roberts said.
There are about 10 to 12 lockdowns each year in the state prison system, and several lockdowns happened in the past few weeks, Cuomo said.
“There has been a recent increase in frequency of lockdowns, which is something that we are watching,” Cuomo said. “The best way to deal with the problem is to prevent it.”
He did not give a reason for the increase of violence in prisons, but suggested a few possibilities like the hot weather or a coincidence.
Cuomo referenced some new technological solutions the state is exploring to reduce prison violence. He added that they are expensive and take time to install. Cuomo did not give specifics, but said he will have a reform plan in January.
“It is a tough, tough job,” he said of working in the state prison system.
Cuomo also touted the “great success” of using police dogs for drug detection in prisons, as well as detection of weapons, and he rounded out his talk with a discussion of training and procedures.
Cuomo said lockdowns are an “extreme measure.”
In May, four corrections officers at the prison were injured by a combative inmate. The inmate kicked a weight scale, which hit an officer. He also spit on another officer. After the officers forced him to the floor, the inmate struggled with them, elbowing and kicking them. The injuries included a twisted knee and arm and hand pain.