Press-Republican

April 30, 2014

TV dispute sparks prison brawl

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — An argument over what television program to watch sparked a brawl at Bare Hill Correctional Facility last week, sending two inmates to the hospital, according to the correction-officers union.

As many as 12 inmates were involved, but few could be identified because officers could not see them after a fire extinguisher was activated during the melee, according to a news release from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

No correctional personnel were injured, the release states.

The State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Public Information Office said an investigation is continuing and that internal disciplinary action should be expected.

MAKESHIFT WEAPONS

The incident occurred at the medium-security state prison about 4 a.m. April 21 but was not made public for several days.

The union said officers were called to assist at a dormitory after several inmates were fighting there.

Arriving officers ordered the men to stop and tried to move in to break up the action but had trouble because the lights were out and the fire extinguisher had been set off, the release states.

Once the smoke cleared, the responding officers were able to separate the inmates, many of whom suffered a variety of injuries, including sprained wrists, gashes, scalp wounds and cuts to the hand, the release said.

In a post-fight search of the room, officers found two padlocks that had each been tied inside black socks and used as weapons during the confrontation, the union said.

Several items in the room may have also been turned into makeshift weapons during the fight, including an iron and two broken ironing boards, a number of chairs and a mop handle, the union said.

DISCIPLINARY CHARGES

Most of the injured were treated at the facility, but two inmates were taken to Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone.

One had a 3-inch cut and tendon damage to the top of his right hand, and the other had a 2-inch gash on the right side of his forehead. Both were treated then taken back to the prison.

Those who could be identified will face disciplinary charges and were placed in a special-housing unit.

The investigation revealed that members of two factions within the facility had argued earlier in the day about what TV programs to watch in the dorm and that the ill will carried over until the physical fight began at 4 a.m., the release said.

“Inmate-on-inmate violence at medium-security correctional facilities can have serious consequences and can lead to significant injuries to staff members and inmates,” NYSCOPBA Vice President Randy Page said in the statement.

“Many occur in dormitory settings where officers are far outnumbered by inmates,” he said. “This presents a challenge for our members and creates a work environment that is not conducive to their safety.

“Thankfully, none of our members were injured in this incident.”

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com