COXSACKIE — Two alleged gang fights broke out in the recreation yard at the maximum-security Coxsackie Correctional Facility, resulting in minor injuries to the inmates, according to the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association.
A preliminary investigation by prison staff indicated the fights were the result of confrontations between rival gangs.
The fights brought a quick response from NYSCOPBA.
“One month away from the halfway point of 2023 and there is no end in sight to the violence inside our state prisons, said Chris Moreau, Union Mid-Hudson Region vice president. “As we approach the summer months and the warmer weather, there will no doubt be more incidents like the gang violence that occurred at Coxsackie. The officers did an excellent job containing both fights before they could escalate and thankfully no staff were injured.”
An officer assigned to the recreation yard observed two inmates exchanging punches near the basketball court on April 23. The fight escalated when four additional inmates joined in the fight. The union released details of the incidents Wednesday.
Several orders were given by staff to stop fighting. The four inmates who joined in the fight complied with staff orders, while the initial fighters continued to exchange punches.
Pepper spray was used by staff on the two remaining fighting inmates. The spray was effective and the inmates stopped fighting and complied with staff orders.
As staff began to restore order, two of the inmates chased another inmate across the yard. One of the inmates in pursuit grabbed the inmate and held him while the other cut him with an unknown weapon across the face.
An officer ordered the inmates to stop fighting and to go to the wall. The two aggressors went to the wall. The inmate who was cut charged the officer. The officer immediately grabbed the inmate in a body hold and forced him to the ground. On the ground, the injured inmate surrendered.
All seven inmates were removed from the yard and brought to the infirmary for treatment. The inmate who was cut had a superficial laceration to his face. The remaining inmates were treated for minor injuries.
Three inmates were placed in Special Housing Units. The four remaining inmates were locked in their cells. All four are facing disciplinary charges.
A search of the immediate area of the fight recovered a chicken bone sharpened on one end. It is believed to be the weapon used to slash the inmate’s face.
Less than 15 minutes later, staff in the yard observed two inmates exchanging punches to the head and body. Several orders were given to stop fighting but they were ignored and the inmates continued to fight.
Staff again used pepper spray, which was effective and the inmates stopped fighting. The two inmates were removed from the yard and were escorted to the infirmary and treated for minor injuries.
Once again, the union blamed the HALT Act, or the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, which is aimed at ending the harmful uses of isolation and solitary confinement in New York state prisons, for the escalation in prison violence.
“Until our elected officials who supported and voted for the HALT Act wake up and realize it is an utter failure, the violence will continue,” Moreau said. “Until that day comes, we will continue to call for its repeal and for immediate action to be taken to address the ongoing violence.”
In addition to the two yard fights, staff recovered two ceramic cutting-type weapons during a search of two inmates and their cells April 27. The first weapon was recovered hidden in the clothing bag in the cell of one inmate. The second weapon was recovered from the pants pocket of the second inmate.
Both weapons had tape on one end to be used as a handle. The weapons were seized as evidence and both inmates face disciplinary charges.
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