Inmates Allege Beatings and Assaults During Raid at New York PrisonNov 16, 2016
In an early morning weapons search at Mid-State Correctional Facility, in Marcy, New York, near Utica, on July 6, inmates say officers beat and stomped on the more than 30 prisoners over the next two hours.
Officers burst into the prisoners' dorm to conduct a surprise weapons search, after a guard had been injured three days earlier, the New York Times reports. The guards made the prisoners get down on the floor and the men say they were beaten and kicked. A number of prisoners suffered broken ribs and one said his nose was broken when a guard repeatedly slammed a door into his face. Another inmate said a guard kicked him in the site of recent hernia surgery.
Inmates Allege Assault by Guards
Inmates say the guards had removed their nametags before entering the dormitory and that they cursed the inmates and used gay and racial slurs during the attack. The guards allegedly destroyed or damaged inmates' personal property.
In an interview last month at the medium-security prison, an inmate from Brooklyn described how an officer allegedly jammed "something metal" into his rectum. Two other prisoners also claim they were sodomized, according to Times. Injury attorneys at Parker Waichman note numerous incidents of inmate beatings and other mistreatment at prisons and jails across New York.
Prisoners say they were warned not to seek medical treatment, or the guards would attack again. On November 2, a week after a reporter from the Marshall Project asked about the episode, the state's corrections commissioner suspended the prison's two top officials, the superintendent and his deputy, pending an inquiry. The Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization that focuses on the criminal justice system. The report on the July incident at Mid-State Correctional Facility is collaboration between the Marshall Project and the New York Times.
Investigation of July Incidents at Mid-State Correctional Facility
The Office of Special Investigations of the New York State Department of Corrections and the State Police are investigating the July 6 raid and the dormitory raid and the July 3 prison guard's injury that precipitated the raid, the Times reports. A corrections department spokesman said the department "will not tolerate any wrongdoing that puts the safety of its facilities at risk, and will not hesitate to pursue disciplinary charges or refer cases for criminal prosecution if warranted."
Investigators face conflicting accounts of the July events. According to the guards' union, two prisoners affiliated with the Bloods street gang injured the officer in a planned attack. But inmates say the guard was injured when he fell from a rickety reclining chair and the prisoners had gone to his aid. The guard has been on medical leave since the injury. He has not responded to the newspaper's emails or phone calls.
There were no cameras to record the two episodes. A lawyer retained by inmates' families called the July 6 raid indefensible. The lawyer has filed a notice of intent to sue and said, "The apparent breadth of involvement by correction officers and high-level supervisors at Mid-State in this barbaric and unjustified use of collective punishment is stunning."
James Miller, a spokesman for the correctional officers union, declined comment, saying these were "unsubstantiated allegations made by convicted felons," and it is "more prudent to allow the investigation to be completed so we know all of the facts," the Times reports.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, in a September announcement of charges against five officers accused of beating an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility in 2013, said, "Excessive use of force in prisons, we believe, has reached crisis proportions in New York State." Bharara's office also investigated the death of an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility last year, although no charges were brought in that incident. In March 2015, three officers at Attica Correctional Facility pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct after an unprovoked beating left an inmate with many broken bones.
Jack Beck, a director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit authorized by the state to monitor prisons, expressed surprise at the scale of the alleged attack at Mid-State. Beck said when guards against prisoners they usually " throw property around, smack people. But to significantly assault large numbers of people, that's unusual."
The guards at Mid-State do not believe Officer Kahl's injury was an accident. But Ricardo Moore, chairman of an inmate liaison committee, said he "used to joke" with Kahl about the chair where he sat in the office of the dormitory's day room. "I said, ‘Look out, you are going to fall over.'" On the day Kahl was injured, Moore says he heard a commotion and when he reached the day room he saw two inmates he said were trying to help Kahl up off the floor. Stacey Wyne, who was released from Mid-State in August, also witnessed the incident. Kahl "just fell over," Wyne said. The inmates pulled the emergency alarm to get help for Kahl. A news release issued by the union said guards responding to the alarm found Officer Kahl unconscious and bleeding. He received eight stitches over his eyebrow. Two inmates the guards believed responsible for injuring Kahl were taken to solitary confinement.
No criminal charges or disciplinary actions have been taken against those inmates, the Times reports. The prisoner accused of leading the attack, Darnell Getfield, 27, of Brooklyn, has been moved to another medium-security prison. The Times says inmates accused of assaulting officers are typically given lengthy sentences in isolation at maximum-security prisons. Getfield may have had gang ties, but other inmates note that he was a member of the inmate liaison committee and appeared to have had a good relationship with Officer Kahl.
Immediately after the guard was injured, corrections officers and prison administrative staff questioned inmates. Mr. Moore said the officers hit and threatened prisoners during questions. Moore said at one point officers held him over a stairwell by the waist of his pants. "I was terrified," Moore said. Other inmates say they were hit or had their heads slammed against a wall during questioning.
Many of the prisoners are afraid to speak with reporters for fear of further retaliation or they have spoken on condition of not being identified.
Legal Help for Prisoners Injured by Corrections Officers
If a jail or prison inmate has been assaulted by a corrections officer, the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can help evaluate the inmate's legal options. For a case evaluation, the inmate or a representative can contact the firm by filling out the online form or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).