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Four Inmates Dead after Fight at Oklahoma Correctional Facility


A fight this weekend at a medium and maximum-security correctional facility in Cushing, Oklahoma, left four inmates dead and four others injured.

Reports say an altercation broke out between several inmates in a single housing pod at the Cimmaron Correctional Facility, and while early reports called it a "riot," prison officials called it an "inmate disturbance." Some reports say the incident lasted 40 minutes, but others say the incident itself took place over only a couple of minutes, but it was not until 40 minutes later that corrections officers were able to secure the area. 

After the fight, three inmates were pronounced dead at the prison. Department of Corrections spokesperson Terri Watkins told reporters that a preliminary investigation shows that the three dead in the prison were fatally stabbed. She did not provide information about the nature of the injuries of the inmate who died at a local hospital or the others who remained hospitalized.

When the fight broke out, only one guard was present in the housing pod. Reports say that guard was not injured during the incident.

This is not the first such incident for the Cimmaron Correctional Facility, a private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. In fact, only a few months ago, in June, a riot at the facility injured 12 inmates, and the prison had to call on the Payne County Sheriff's Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to help secure the prison and get things back under control. And in March 2005, another riot at the facility ended with one inmate dead and 15 others injured

And it is not just Cimmaron--in fact CCA seems to have a history of problems.

Last year, a Nashville newspaper reported that there were two separate murders at CCA run prisons in Tennessee in the prior seven months, compared with zero prison murders at state-run facilities. The article also pointed out murders at CCA facilities in recent history, including the 2013 murder of an inmate at a CCA facility in Arizona and the 2014 murder of an inmate at North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Oklahoma.

You may remember that the Sayre prison was also the site of a prison riot. The 2011 North Fork Correctional riot spread through the facility, injuring 50 inmates and sending 16 to local hospitals. Four were so seriously injured that they were transferred to a Midwest City nursing home, where they were allowed to recover under armed guard.

Last year, the governor of Idaho ordered state police to investigate a CCA-run prison amid allegations that the facility was falsifying documents to conceal understaffing.

And a 2006 article about CCA in Florida says, "[A]n examination of CCA's three jails in Florida reveals a pattern of gross mismanagement and substandard or indifferent care of prisoners on every level, which has resulted in injuries and deaths. Risks to the community abound in frequent escapes. Repeated suicides, beatings, rapes and misconduct by CCA employees have occurred." The article tells of a woman who went into labor and was basically ignored for four hours before finally taken to the infirmary. There she was diagnosed with kidney stones mere minutes before she delivered her baby--by herself.

Interestingly enough, when he took office in 2014, DOC Director Robert Patton addressed problems with private prisons run by CCA and The GEO Group (which runs the Lawton Correctional Facility and the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton). Patton had already dealt with the backlash against poorly run private prisons as the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Patton was head of the DOC in Arizona when three convicted murderers escaped from a private prison in Kingman. The three shot to death Gary and Linda Haas, a couple vacationing from Oklahoma.

As he came to Oklahoma, Patton said of private prisons, "You have to make sure that they are following all the policies and guidelines that they've set forth. The only way you can do that is through appropriate reporting and communication I have absolutely no problem picking up the phone and calling the president of CCA or GEO to discuss an issue." 

And as Patton is left to consider how to "discuss" the issue of a fatal riot in Cushing--the second incident in three months--the Governor of Arizona is terminating the DOC's contract with Management and Training Corp. (MTC) the operators of the Kingman facility where a riot broke out in July, injuring 16 people and forcing the evacuation of 1,200 inmates.    

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