Union wants changes after 4 COs assaulted at Conn. prison

Four officers were injured Thursday after an inmate covered over his cell window and refused to remove the obstruction

David Moran
The Hartford Courant

CHESHIRE, Conn. – Union leaders representing the state's correction officers say changes to the way the state handles some of its most dangerous prisoners is placing more officers at risk after an inmate with a history of violence injured four prison officers Thursday.

The Department of Correction said that four of its officers were injured at the Cheshire Correctional Institution at approximately 2:20 p.m. Thursday after an inmate in its administrative segregation program with a known history of violent assaults covered over his cell window and refused to remove the obstruction. Administrative segregation is the state's equivalent of solitary confinement for inmates.

When officers attempted to enter his cell, the inmate became "combative" and struck one officer in the face and scratched another officer in the face, department of correction spokeswoman Karen Martucci said.

Officers were able to subdue the inmate, who was then transferred to the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, where Martucci said he was placed under the "highest level of supervision."

Four officers were taken to the emergency room for treatment of injuries they suffered during the incident, Martucci said. Connecticut Sate Police are expected to press charges against the inmate as well, she said.

There have been several assaults on officers at the Cheshire facility in recent months, and Rudy Demiraj, president of the union that represents correction officers at the prison, said that the severity of such attacks have increased since the department made changes to the way it handles inmates housed in its administrative segregation section in 2011.

"This latest violent assault underscores the dangers correction officers face on a daily basis," Demiraj said. "The department and the Malloy administration have made changes on how Connecticut's most dangerous and violent inmates are housed and managed. These changes were made to appease outside interest groups and the inmate population, and are undoubtedly leading to more assaults on officers."

There were two additional assaults on officers at the prison from July through September, Martucci said. An officer was stabbed in the neck at the same prison last October, and another officer was injured when he tried to prevent the officer from being stabbed a second time by an inmate serving an 11-year sentence for first-degree assault.

Demiraj said that that inmate, Victor Colon, had just been returned to the general prison population after completing a stint in the administrative segregation section when the attack occurred.

"You're dealing with inmates that have a long history of assaulting staff," Demiraj said of inmates placed in the segregation section.

"They're very violent. They're very problematic."

Martucci said that the department takes the safety of its staff "very seriously" and is open to exploring "safe alternatives to best address emergent and potentially dangerous situations."

"One of Commissioner Scott Semple's primary goals is to reduce the incidences of staff trauma throughout the agency," Martucci said. "Even one assault on staff is one too many, and we will continue to strive to make our facilities as safe as possible."

Demiraj said the union is hopeful that the department will consideration revisions to the way it handles its most dangerous inmates to better ensure the safety of its members.

"We'd like to continue a serious dialogue with the agency and share our concerns with them and come up with some way that we can manage these inmates in a safe manner," Demiraj said.

Copyright 2015 The Hartford Courant

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