The Clinton Correctional Facility has been under the microscope since the escape of two prisoners from its maximum security division in June, which led to a 23-day multimillion dollar manhunt. This weekend, the prison was placed on lockdown after two prisoner altercations.
No corrections officers were injured after prisoners had to be subdued following two fights this past weekend. But the fights were serious enough that prison administrators placed the facility on lockdown. Prisoners have been confined to their cells while corrections officers conduct a complete search of facility.
NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association Northern Region Vice President Chris Hansen explains what happened. “On Thursday evening there was an altercation in the North Yard between four to six inmates, approximately, and the inmates were subdued and the facility continued as normal. On Saturday they had another altercation. At that point they dropped chemical agents into the yard. And that was a larger altercation between inmates, with weapons. At that point because of the violence escalating at Clinton Correctional the Department and the administration at Clinton Correctional decided to go into the lockdown mode.”
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision declined to be interviewed. The agency issued a statement on Saturday noting: “The Department took proactive steps to lockdown the facility to ensure the safety of staff and others. The facility is expected to return to normal operations sometime next week.”
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey says she will be at Clinton Correctional on Wednesday to meet with prison officials, correction officers and inmates. “The main focus for all of us is the safety and security of the people who are within those walls. So this gives the opportunity for the correction officers to safely check each cell for weapons and any contraband that’s there. You know, what happens on the streets also happens inside the walls. There are gangs and they don’t like each other.”
Queensborough Community College Professor of History Jeff Hall is an expert on upstate prisons. He notes that lockdowns across prison systems are common. “They were pretty frequent in the 1980’s and 90’s and into the early part of this century. Lockdown became the preferred form of handling any kind of disruption or disturbance by prisoners. Now sometimes lockdown was the result of actual disruptions and disturbances: meal strikes and work strikes, small fires, fights. And sometimes lockdowns would be instituted to prevent potential outbreaks of violence. So it’s been a tool that’s been used quite often.”
Hall adds that considering the stresses following the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat and the climate of investigation surrounding the Dannemora prison, he expects more incidents and more lockdowns there. “I think that the attention that the corruption inside that prison is receiving will provoke a response among prisoners. And history tells us this, not just in the North Country but across the United States. I think the state prison system in New York is reaching a boiling point.”
The Auburn Correction Facility in Cayuga County had also been in lockdown. The New York State Corrections Department lifted the lockdown there Tuesday.