A surprise search for weapons early in the day on July 6, 2016, at Mid-State Correctional Facility, near Utica, New York, was triggered by a guard being injured three days earlier. Dozens of corrections officers barged into the inmate’s dormitory shouting at the prisoners to get down on the floor.
The raid continued for the next two hours with officers beating and stomping on each of the 30 prisoners present at the time, according to inmates. Allegations included ribs broken by kicks and punches, with guards destroying inmates’ property, screaming, and cursing, and spewing racial epithets. A prisoner, 58-years of age, said he was rammed through the Sheetrock wall of his room, headfirst. A 41-year-old inmate maintained his nose was broken when a guard smashed a metal door repeatedly into his face, the New York Times reports.
An inmate from Brooklyn serving a six-year sentence for robbery, said he was sodomized by an officer with “something metal” as he lay on the floor. “It was bigger than a pen, about the size of those small flashlights they carry,” the prisoner said. Similar claims of violation were made by at least two other inmates.
Aftermath of the Raid
The prisoners were warned the guards would attack again if they did not keep quiet or sought medical attention. However, on November 2, the state’s corrections commissioner suspended the prison’s top two officials, the superintendent and his deputy, pending an inquiry, reports the Times.
Investigation into Conflicting Accounts
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said that its Office of Special Investigations and State Police officers were examining the July 3 injury to a prison guard that appeared to have provoked the dormitory raid by officers.
The guards’ union claims that the injured officer was targeted in a planned attack by two prisoners, associated with the Bloods street gang. Inmates blame a rickety, reclining chair that they believe caused the officer to fall, gashing his head, and the two prisoners only ran to help the fallen guard.
There were no cameras to record the incidents, as is the case in most of the state’s prisons. The guard, in his mid-20s had been a corrections officer for two years. He is a Navy veteran and records show, he has been out on medical leave since he was injured, reports the Times.
Legal Action on Behalf of Inmates
A lawyer has been retained by inmates’ relatives who denounced the actions of the correction officers and high-level supervisors at Mid-State in this “barbaric and unjustified use of collective punishment.” A notice of intent to sue in the state’s Court of Claim has been filed on behalf of 32 inmates. A union spokesman declined to comment until the investigation is completed.
Parker Waichman attorneys have extensive experience in personal injury lawsuits and closely monitor all lawsuits of this nature.
In September 2013, five officers were accused of beating an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility. The United States attorney in that case stated that the allegations of brutality against inmates at Mid-State are the latest involving New York prisons. Excessive use of force in prisons in New York has reached crisis proportions, according to the Times.
The death of an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility last year occurred after a violent episode with officers, but no charges were filed. In March 2015, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility had numerous broken bones resulting from an unprovoked beating by three officers who pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct.
The chairman of an inmate liaison committee at Mid-State, age 45, is serving a seven-year sentence for drug possession. He had served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm and said that he and the injured officer had shared about their military experiences. He said that the guard usually sat in a plexiglass office in the dormitory’s day room with his legs propped up on the desk as he reclined in a chair. The inmate liaison said he used to joke with the guard about that chair and warned him to be careful, that he would fall over. On the day of the incident, upon hearing a commotion, he ran to the day room and claims he saw two inmates trying to help the guard up off the floor. Another inmate corroborated his story, the Times wrote.
The unions issued a news release that said guards responding to the alarm found the officer bleeding and unconscious. He required eight stitches over his eye. The two inmates the guards believed were to blame for the injury, were moved to solitary confinement. Four months later, there have been no criminal charges filed or disciplinary actions taken against those inmates.
The prisoner accused of leading the attack may have had gang ties, two inmates said, but they also remarked that he was a member of the inmate liaison committee and seemed to have had a good relationship with the injured officer. Corrections officers and prison administrative employees grilled inmates immediately after the guard was injured. The inmates were threatened with further beatings and generally terrorized. Most of the dormitory residents were black or Latino, while all of the officers involved were white, according to the Times.
A guard said to one of the inmates who were cleaning up after the mayhem, “You’re a veteran, right? What do you do when someone tries to injure one of your buddies?” The inmate said it was his military responsibility to hurt him back. The guard replied, “So you see why we are doing this. You guys tried to kill one of ours.”