ELMIRA, N.Y. — The Elmira Correctional Facility in New York was recently locked down for several days following a surge of reportable incidents. The facility reported 19 significant incidents in the first 24 days of January. The New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA), the union representing correctional officers at the facility, announced the lockdown in a press release.
“This unusually high number of incidents included inmate-on-inmate assaults as well as inmates found to be in possession of weapons and other contraband,” the press release indicated.
The document added that the union wrote to the facility’s superintendent on Jan. 24 to request the lockdown, which began the afternoon of Jan. 29 and lasted approximately one week. This represented the second time the facility was locked down in a four-month period.
The union attributed the issues to recent budget cutbacks and prison closures — a timely argument given that Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed closing two correctional facilities as part of his budget plan, released a week before.
“Since 2009, 11 state correctional facilities have been closed and more than 2,000 correctional officer positions have been lost due to budget cutbacks. The latest executive budget proposal includes the shuttering of two facilities, Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan and Beacon Correctional Facility in the lower Hudson Valley, which will displace an additional 160 NYSCOPBA members.”
The NYSCOPBA argued that closures and cuts made the correctional system more dangerous, adding that correctional officers were more likely to be assaulted by an inmate now than in prior years.
“By placing more inmates into fewer locations, the state will drive up the inmate-to-officer ratio and increase the risk of violent incidents inside correctional facilities. Coupled with the state’s consistent inability to sufficiently staff state facilities, the proposals introduced by the governor will increase the level of danger for correctional officers.”
The union added that locking down a facility involved frisking all inmates and searching the entire prison. A large amount of weapons were found hidden throughout the common areas and eight weapons were found on inmates, “an unusually high number in a lock down situation,” according to the statement.
The lockdown incident came hot on the heels of the arrests of two civilian employees at Elmira, which occurred the day before. Two store clerks at the correctional facility were charged with misdemeanors. One was charged with misconduct, the other was accused of bringing contraband into the prison.