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CO out of work following assault, NY union says

The inmate was inside the cell and the CO and sergeant were outside of the cell during the altercation.


By Cara Chapman
The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

DANNEMORA — A Clinton Correctional Facility CO is out of work due to injuries suffered in an assault by an inmate earlier this week, a prison union official says.

At 12:10 a.m. Tuesday, the correction officer and a sergeant went to the inmate's cell, located in Clinton Annex, for an emergency State Office of Mental Health referral, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association Northern Region Vice President John Roberts told the Press-Republican.

"The inmate stated that he was going to hurt himself."

WAIST CHAINS

In order to apply mechanical restraints, the CO asked the inmate to put his arms outside the cell.

"He placed his hands through the (food) hatch, and mechanical restraints were applied to the right wrist," Roberts said.

The CO had control of the waist chains, which the cuffs run through to prevent inmates from lifting their arms and striking officers, he explained.

Those are attached once an inmate is out of the cell.

"What you usually do is you have a good grip on the waist chains in case he does try to yank them," Roberts said, "(so) he doesn't have control of the chains and the cuffs.

"You don't want to have him have that weapon if you have to go in and get him out of the cell."

YANKED INTO BARS

Once the inmate's right wrist was cuffed, he somehow grabbed the waist chains and forcefully pulled his wrists back into the cell, "causing the officer to strike his face and upper torso off the cell bars," Roberts continued.

The inmate allegedly pulled a second time, causing the CO to strike his face again, and yanking the CO's forearm and hand into the food hatch.

"The sergeant assisted with gaining control by also grabbing the waist chains and ordering the inmate to place his restraintsoutside the (food) hatch," Roberts said.

The inmate complied, and the restraints were fully applied before the officers escorted him to the Office of Mental Health, where he was admitted for observation.

POSSIBLE BROKEN ARM

A frisk of the inmate's cell revealed he had a shank-type weapon in the wash bucket next to his cell toilet, Roberts said.

"The officer was sent to an outside hospital and remained off-duty with limited hand movement, red bruises on his face and cheeks," Roberts said.

"He's still out of work at this time, and we're not sure if his arm's broken or not."He added that the CO told him Friday he would have to get an MRI done.

The sergeant suffered scrapes and remained on duty, he said, and the inmate reportedly refused all medical attention.

INMATE VIOLENCE

Roberts confirmed that the inmate was inside the cell and the CO and sergeant were outside of the cell during the altercation.

He did not know whether the inmate had been released from the Mental Health unit or was placed in keeplock, or if any disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against him.

He declined to release the names of the inmate, CO and sergeant.

"It's a rise on inmate violence in the last few years," Roberts said. "Because of the impending (New York Civil Liberties Union) settlements ... inmates don't have as much to lose, and there are not as many consequences for assaulting staff as there used to be in the past.

"Our members and our officers shouldn't be punching bags for inmates."

NEW PROVISIONS

Roberts was referring to the settlement of Peoples v. Fischer, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2012.

The arrangement overhauled the state's solitary-confinement system and, according to the Civil Liberties Union, provided "a framework for ending the state's over-reliance on extreme isolation."

The settlement's provisions included restrictions on when solitary confinement can be used as punishment.

It also set maximum sentences for most first-time violations and granted automatic release for participation in rehabilitative programming and good behavior.

The state also must invest $62 million for implementation of those conditions.

MILLIONS INVESTED

According to DOCCS, appropriate staffing levels are continuously reviewed, and 268 new security jobs have been added over the last two years.

That, the department said, maintains an inmate-to-CO ratio of about 3 to 1, which is among the lowest in the nation.

DOCCS has invested millions of dollars into technology such as Cellsense, a portable contraband detector, as well as heartbeat detectors and thermal-imaging devices.

"The Clinton and Clinton Annex facilities are also in the midst of installing hundreds of cameras that will enhance the safety and security of staff and inmates," DOCCS said.
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(c)2017 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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