DANNEMORA — An inmate stabbed during a fight at Clinton Correctional was not hospitalized for the injury, but the correction officers union points to the incident as one in a growing number that threatens those who work in state prisons.
“Contraband is still making its way into our facilities at record levels and assaults continue to occur at high rates,” said John Roberts, vice president of New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, in a press release.
“There are no discipline measures that exist that will successfully deter these incidents from continuing at high levels in 2019, and that is simply unacceptable for the safety of our members.”
Pepper spray used
The stabbing occurred at about 12:45 p.m. Nov. 26 during a fight between two inmates in a tailor shop at the maximum-security prison, Roberts said.
“Staff arrived and gave the inmates orders to stop fighting,” he said.
“One inmate refused and continued the attack. An officer deployed OC (oleorson capsicum) pepper spray to the inmate to get him to comply with the orders.”
The stab wound suffered by one of the men was discovered after the altercation ended, Roberts said.
“He was taken to the facility infirmary and later transferred to an outside hospital for treatment.”
Investigating the incident afterwards, the union VP said, officers found a broken tailor shop pick that had been used as a weapon in the fight.
It was processed as evidence in the continuing investigation, he said.
DOCCS said the prisoner was treated and released at a local hospital. The incident is under review, but the department didn’t offer comment specific to the case.
NYSCOPBA also pointed to a recent arrest at Clinton involving contraband synthetic marijuana that the union said a woman hid in her clothing before coming to visit an inmate.
Shaquanda L. Raymond, 31, of Lyons, faces charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
“Since 2014, the number of drug arrests, inmate on inmate and inmate on staff assaults, and other significant disturbances, commonly reported as ‘Unusual Incidents,’ have risen from 298 in 2014 to over 600 in 2018,” NYSCOPBA said.
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“By the end of the year, that number will be over 100 percent for that five-year period.”
‘No harm from most violence’
DOCCS called that statement “misguided.”
“The metric clearly shows that the department’s investments in security tools, such as Cellsense — a portable contraband detector — and adding to the number of DOCCS K9 units, has increased the amount of contraband identified before it enters a facility,” the department said.
“Also, the addition of a pepper spray program has resulted in many UIs coming to quicker and safer resolutions. When pepper spray is used in our facilities, it is always logged as an Unusual Incident, adding to the numbers of UIs.”
“When it comes to assaults in DOCCS’ facilities, no staff or incarcerated individual being harmed is acceptable,” DOCCS said.
“Fortunately, we can report that between 2013 (and the present) almost 96 percent of violent incidents have resulted in no injury to staff or inmates and almost 4 percent have resulted in only minor injuries.”
DOCCS has been investing heavily in an effort to improve security over the past three years, since the June 2015 breakout from Clinton Correctional of murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat.
That includes adding more security staff, the department said.
In December 2016, DOCCS initiated a Body Worn Camera pilot program at a number of facilities; it is still ongoing.
The department has invested millions in technology that includes Cellsense, a portable contraband detector; heartbeat detectors; and thermo-imaging devices, the department said.
And it has also provided additional training in de-escalation tactics.
Almost 2,000 fixed cameras have been installed at Attica Correctional Facility — that system became operational in May 2016, DOCCS said.
And Clinton Correctional Facility’s camera project is almost ready to go online, the department said.