Oklahoma has had a bad run with its prisons over the last few years. Overcrowding and understaffing lead to volatile situations in both state and federal prisons across the Sooner state, leading a Bureau of Justice Statistics report to conclude in December that Oklahoma is home to the nation's deadliest prisons.
And in the last month alone, there have been two prison fights which seem to support that theory.
On Tuesday, May 16, an incident at Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing led to injury for five staffers. According to reports, a correctional officer deployed pepper spray against a noncompliant inmate. When he did so, he was attacked in retaliation by several other inmates. The facility sent more officers to respond to the incident, and these officers also used pepper spray in an attempt to stop the altercation.
Mark Myers, spokesman for the state Corrections Department, said that the incident was over quickly, but resulted in five corrections officers being transported to a local hospital, where they were treated and released. No inmates were injured in the altercation.
Just a month prior, on April 14, seven inmates were injured when a fight broke out at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre. In this incident, one group of inmates entered a pod and began a verbal confrontation with another group of inmates. The incident quickly broke out in physical violence, with some inmates using homemade weapons. Six inmates were transported to a local hospital; a seventh was flown by helicopter to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh said of the incident, "This was a significant incident, and due to the quick actions of our staff the situation was quickly contained. Our staff members do the best they can when it comes to properly securing our facilities. It’s a difficult task we ask of them, because agency wide we have correctional officer (CO) staffing shortages. Our CO positions don’t pay enough to be competitive in the job market and with the current budget crisis we are experiencing the situation isn’t going to get any better anytime soon when it comes to filling vacancies.”
Just a few days after the fight at the North Fork facility, seven inmates were charged in connection with a deadly prison fight that occurred at Cimarron
Correctional Facility in 2015. That fight was a turf war between the United Aryan Brotherhood and the Irish Mob over control of the prison
drug trade. During that riot, four inmates were stabbed to death. Each of the seven inmates is charged with participating in a riot, a felony punishable
by 10 years to life in prison.
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