ELMIRA, NY – (WIVT/WBGH) Seven fights broke out over a five-day period last week at the Elmira Correctional Facility, leaving several inmates and two officers injured.

Between July 24 and July 28, prison staff responded to several large fights, two of which involved over a dozen inmates. Makeshift weapons were used in two of the fights, causing harm to multiple inmates. All but one of the weapons involved were recovered by officers due to an inmate’s inability to identify the man who attacked him. Five other hidden weapons were located and seized for evidence during inmate cell searches following the outbreak. Recovered weapons included ceramic and metal razor blades, plastic and metal shanks, and a sharpened toothbrush. All involved inmates were placed in a Special Housing Unit while disciplinary charges are pending.

On July 24, an officer saw two inmates, who were entering the mess hall for breakfast, begin to fight. Several other inmates joined and initially ignored orders to stop fighting. After a second order was issued, all but three inmates complied. The three noncompliant inmates were administered OC spray, or pepper spray, which was initially ineffective. After officers used a second application of the spray, the fighting stopped.

On July 26, an inmate notified an officer in the recreation yard that he had been cut in the face by an unknown inmate. The laceration was on the right side of his face and consistent with a cutting type of weapon. The inmate was escorted to the infirmary to receive treatment. The assailant has not been identified and the weapon has not yet been recovered.

On July 27, two large multiple inmate fights occurred during mealtimes. During the morning meal, eight inmates began fighting. After officers made several attempts to stop the fight, all of which were ignored by the inmates, OC spray was administered. Once the fight was over, several injured inmates were escorted to the infirmary and treated for lacerations consistent with cutting type weapons. A metal razor blade was found on the cell block floor near where the fight broke out. Two officers were injured during the fight. One sustained hand, shoulder, and back pain and was treated by medical staff at the facility, remaining on duty. The other sustained hand and shoulder injuries and was transported to a nearby hospital.

The second fight of the day occurred shortly after at the afternoon meal. Staff observed several inmates begin to fight and a response was called to the mess hall after orders to stop were ignored. When additional staff arrived, all but two inmates complied. One of the inmates was placed in a body hold, forced to the floor, and placed in handcuffs while the other was forced to the wall. The inmate turned off of the wall and grabbed an officer by his waist and shirt. He was then placed in a body hold by the officer but continued to fight. Staff were eventually able to force his arms behind his back in order to apply handcuffs before the inmate was escorted out of the mess hall. During the escort, he became violent again and kicked the officer in the groin. Body holds were applied, and he was forced to the floor again.

Unrelated to the initial fights, an inmate stood up from the mess hall table and lunged at staff. He was placed in a body hold while handcuffs were applied.

Another minor fight broke out before lunch, causing minor injuries to two officers. Two inmates began fighting on the way to the mess hall, initially ignoring officer’s orders to break it up. OC spray was administered several times and body holds were needed to separate the inmates. Once they had calmed down, officers escorted them to be decontaminated. During the escort, one inmate spit in the officer’s face and was placed in a body hold until he became compliant.

The last two fights occurred on July 28. The first fight involved two inmates in the rear shower area of the kitchen. The officer assigned to the kitchen ordered the inmates to stop before administering OC spray, which was effective in ending the fight. A larger fight occurred during the afternoon mealtime in the mess hall. Three inmates attacked two other inmates who were sitting directly across from each other. Eight other inmates joined in, with several making slashing motions. Additional staff was called in to stop the fight but were unsuccessful in doing so. Several applications of OC spray were administered, causing some inmates to stop fighting, but several others continued. Officers deemed the threat of serious injury present. One round of chemical agents was deployed, ceasing all fights. 13 inmates were escorted to the infirmary, several with lacerations consistent with cutting type weapons. No staff were injured in the incident.

“Last week was extremely dangerous for staff at Elmira with half a dozen inmate fights, several which included a dozen inmates fighting armed with make-shift weapons. Thankfully, the injuries to the two officers were minor, but it could easily could have gotten out of hand if not for the quick alert actions of staff. I just wonder, if the amount of violence that exists in our state prisons were occurring in the streets and neighborhoods in the respective districts of the legislators who supported HALT, would they remain this silent as they are now?” said Kenny Gold, NYSCOPBA Western Region Vice President.  “Their constituents would demand that they address the violence in their community, or they would vote them out of office.  How is this any different? They changed the rules to make it better for the inmates and inmate on inmate attacks are on pace to increase thirty percent from last year. Inmate on staff assaults are on pace to equal last year’s record levels. Just because this violence is hidden behind the concrete walls of a prison doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Yet the legislators who voted for HALT remain eerily silent.”