COXSACKIE — Five correctional officers were injured and one weapon was recovered after a fight broke out among inmates at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, according to the union representing correctional officers.
The injuries come three days after the union announced two additional incidents at Greene Correctional Facility that led to four officers injured.
Spokesman Thomas Mailey from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed a fight in the mess hall at the Coxsackie facility took place Sept. 28, and said violence in state correctional facilities is unacceptable.
“The department has zero tolerance for violence within our facilities and anyone engaged in misconduct will be disciplined,” Mailey said. “If warranted, an incident will be referred for outside prosecution.”
Two groups of inmates were allegedly involved in the fight in the facility’s mess hall, according to a statement Friday from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
“At approximately 11:30 a.m., an officer assigned to the mess hall observed an inmate stand up from his table and attack another inmate,” according to the union. “A third inmate, who was in close proximity to the fight, ran and joined in and started throwing punches.”
The inmates ignored calls for them to stop fighting and several officers responded, according to the union.
OC spray, commonly known as pepper spray, was administered to one inmate, but did not have any effect. One of the officers grabbed two inmates who were exchanging punches in a body hold and forced them to the ground, according to the union.
A third inmate was secured in a body hold and forced to the ground by another officer.
“Once on the ground, staff were able to get the three inmates under control and into handcuffs,” according to the union.
A second fight broke out among three inmates who were waiting in line for their meals, and a fourth inmate ran from his table to join in.
Pepper spray was again used, but to no effect.
During the fracas, an officer was able to bring an inmate to the ground in a body hold, while another officer administered a second round of OC spray to the other three inmates, which put a stop to the fighting.
“All four inmates were placed in handcuffs and removed from the mess hall,” according to the union.
The inmates were searched and one was found to have a ceramic folding knife in his pants pocket.
All of the inmates involved in the fight were placed in a Special Housing Unit pending disciplinary charges.
Two officers sustained back pain and a third had knee, hip and shoulder pain. A fourth corrections officer sustained knee and foot pain.
Four officers remained on duty and a fifth was transported to Albany Medical Center for pain and swelling in her hip and knee. She was treated and released, according to the union.
Mailey confirmed the injuries.
“In the effort to stop the fighting, one correction officer suffered an injury requiring they be transported by state vehicle to a local hospital where they were treated and released,” Mailey said. “All other COs involved were evaluated by facility medical staff and remained on duty.”
NYSCOPBA Mid-Hudson Region Vice President Chris Moreau said there has been an uptick in violence in state correctional facilities. He tied the rise to a policy change from several years ago as well as passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, or HALT, which limits the use of segregated confinement for incarcerated individuals to a maximum of 15 days and puts other restrictions on how inmates can be disciplined.
“The significant increase in inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults can be traced directly back to DOCCS (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) weakening the disciplinary system in 2015,” Moreau said. “Now with HALT legislation passed, that system will provide little or no deterrent to inmates who do not follow the rules, act out and become violent towards staff and other inmates.”
“It is a broken system that provides no safeguards for staff to be attacked on a daily basis,” Moreau added.