ALBANY — At least 10 state security staffers were injured at a maximum-security prison in upstate Greene County in what the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision called the latest example of a rise in violent conduct in its facilities.
The agency said Tuesday the incident unfolded one day earlier at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, which holds about 900 convicted felons.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
“Violence such as this makes the work of the department’s Prison Violence Task Force more crucial than ever to maintain the safety and security of our facilities,” the agency said in a statement.
No information was released as to what triggered the incident.
“The Department has zero tolerance for violence within our facilities and any individuals found responsible for this incident will be disciplined and be referred for outside prosecution,” the corrections department said.
The same prison was the scene of a violent inmate uprising on the same date in 1988. Several corrections officers were taken hostage by the inmates and released after about 14 hours. The inmates involved in that incident had been assigned to special housing units reserved for prisoners being disciplined for infractions behind bars.
The state has recently severely restricted the use of those disciplinary units after the New York Civil Liberties Union and other advocates for inmates argued solitary confinement amounts to torture.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association, said he believes the new restrictions on disciplining inmates has made New York’s prisons more dangerous because of the limitations on the system’s ability to segregate troublesome inmates away from the rest of the population.
“We’ve got some serious injuries here,” Powers told CNHI. “Coxsackie is under a great deal of pressure and stress, with our members working long hours. It’s very concerning to us.”
‘LITTLE OR NO CONSEQUENCE’
Powers said state officials agreed to lock down the prison and authorized searches for weapons and other contraband.
“The inmates know now there is little or no consequence for these actions,” Powers added. “And as the Legislature sits idly by, they can’t say they are not aware of what’s going on because we share every press release we do with them.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague,, R-Schoharie, whose district includes the Coxsackie prison, said the violent attack on officers demonstrates that the curbs on special housing units have fueled instability in the prison system.
Tague said the challenging conditions at the prison include staffing shortages and mandatory overtime for the security staffers.
“We don’t have enough officers at these locations,” said Tague, contending that the state’s decision to close a string of prisons in recent years has led to “chaos” in the correctional system.
He and many Republicans opposed the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT), which limits the use of segregated confinement for all incarcerated persons to 15 days and implemented alternative rehabilitative measures, including the creation of Residential Rehabilitation Units.
In backing the measure last year, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) stated: “Prolonged segregated confinement can cause permanent harms and does not properly address the root causes that lead to the punishment. These reforms are morally right, fiscally responsible, and will improve outcomes at jails and prisons.”