CA prisoners trapped in Riot at North Fork (OK): Private prison exchanges security for profits

In: SF Bay View, January 10, 2012
by Anthony Robinson Jr.

“We will now criticize the unjust with the weapon.” – Comrade

Written Nov. 1, 2011 – In our struggle for freedom, that weapon has been and will continue to be Truth. I am a California prisoner who was sent involuntarily to NFORK CCA (the Corrections Corporation of America’s North Fork Prison), a private prison in Oklahoma, where I have been for over a year. California thought they could more effectively silence my protests and lawsuits by hurling me hundreds of miles away.

I am once again calling on the Bay View, i.e. Voice of the People:

On Oct. 11, 2011, a riot kicked off where Black inmates were fending off inmates from every other demographic. We faced insurmountable odds and some people were in critical condition afterwards, but the biggest odds against us has yet to be pointed out and is now working diligently to manufacture cover stories to conceal their liability; the odds I speak of is the role of CCA NFORK and COCF (Sacramento-based California Out-of-State Correctional Facility, a unit in CDCR, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) in setting the stage for such a catastrophic event to take place.

For years CCA NFORK has been operating under-staffed and unprofessionally with no consequences brought to them, even though, in the contract between CCA and COCF, it states that they are to maintain a sufficient number of staff to ensure the safety and security of inmates and staff, or they face indemnity and breach of contract.

The day of the riot it was apparent that they didn’t have the staff to curtail the aggression. They were so desperate for manpower they were using nurses to hold spray cans on those of us who made it out of the chow-hall and were being placed in restraints. In my 10 years in California prisons, I have never seen an MTA or nurse touch a spray can during or after a riot. The nurses couldn’t even carry out effectively their assigned duties and tend to the wounded because they had to adopt the role of security force against the people.

The memos they passed out soon after the riot provided insight into the cover story they are manufacturing. During feeding, inmates are to be instructed to go to the back of the cell and sit on the bunk, while two officers come around to feed, placing our food on the floor. They are trying to infer and imply that there was a more pressing need for staff safety as an explanation as to why it took over an hour to get to the injured and wounded. Failure to protect is an understatement! Tacked on to this is their deliberate indifference as they have falsely concluded that the Black inmates intentionally started a riot with Southern inmates, whose numbers consume nearly 60 percent of the inmate population.

How is such a racial disparity created in a facility, a reasonable person might ask? Intentionally, of course. In Alpha North, where I am housed, there are 29 Black inmates to 80 or so Southerners. And nearly every building is set up as such.

The beginning of this year they removed all the Northerners off the line and replaced them with nearly all Southerners. The stated reason was potential tension, gleaned through informants and kites, of a riot between Southern and Northern groups. After talking with the chief of security, lieutenants etc. about the increased racial disparity that is intentionally being catered to, I wrote a grievance to Warden F.E. Figueroa letting him know in no uncertain terms that there is an implicit failure to protect liability in the racial disparity alone.

It became obvious after my appeal was ignored that CCA NFORK and COCF have exchanged security for profits. The less staff a private institution has to hire, the more it profits. When that institution is allowed to operate understaffed, they guarantee a profit by not hiring the staff it would take to cover the gap to become properly staffed.
CCA NFORK and COCF have exchanged security for profits. The less staff a private institution has to hire, the more it profits.

For those of us like myself who have been sent out here involuntarily so that California can fabricate on the books a decrease of overcrowding, we have implicitly been asked to exchange comforts like Xbox, Playstation, hobbies and crafts for security. And the guise would probably still seem impenetrable, but for this riot.

Even though we are on lockdown and in our confined cells, we may be more vulnerable than ever if left in the hands of corporate think tanks and an obviously draconian COCF machine that would like nothing more than to quietly put back together their Frankenstein puzzle of quite a “functional” CCA/COCF institution.

The Milgram experiment (“a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience,” according to Wikipedia) is seen all over again in regards to the prestige given the prison industrial complex that disables people’s right to question and demand the basic human necessity of rehabilitation.

The people have been taught to look at America’s prisons as such a necessity that an inherent legitimacy grows, in which legislatures, wardens, corrections unions etc. are allowed to treat prisoners as inhumanly as it takes to turn a profit or break what is seen as a rebellious spirit. The Greek concept of civil death has been resurrected in regards to prisoners.

Have our sentences ushered us out of the definition of what it means to be human? Has the privilege of humanity been taken off the list like an item on our commissary?
Have our sentences ushered us out of the definition of what it means to be human? Has the privilege of humanity been taken off the list like an item on our commissary?

In Solidarity!

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-57144, NFORK AN-247, 1605 E. Main, Sayre, OK 73662. He is the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems, Volume 1.”

Black and Brown must unite against our common enemy, the system

by Marcus Dalton

This is in regard to the unjust conditions and unsafe environment of a facility that is not capable of operating or containing a full scale riot. On Oct. 11, a riot between inmates occurred. The riot started in the kitchen and spread to almost every part of the facility.

This facility has operated understaffed for two years and the day of the incident, they were so understaffed that they used OJT (on the job trainees) who have not been properly trained as C/Os (correctional officers), C/Os from other facilities, C/Os on their day off and nurses to try and control the situation. It took over an hour and 30 minutes to do so, and at the height of the assaults some buildings were overrun by inmates with no thought on their mind but to kill anyone from the other side. The odds were overwhelming, and the staff who are assigned to insure our safety and security were confused and lost.
The day of the incident, they were so understaffed that they used OJT (on the job trainees) who have not been properly trained as C/Os, C/Os from other facilities, C/Os on their day off and nurses to try and control the situation.

The majority of us were forced out here (to CCA’s North Fork Prison in Oklahoma) by the aggressive “Involuntary Transfer” policy adopted by CDCR in response to the overcrowding in the CDCR prison system. By CCA being a private organization, profit is its top priority and everything else is second.
Prisoners in the exercise yard at North Fork Correctional Facility, Oklahoma – Photo: Corrections Corporation of America
Thousands in damage was done to the facility, which Black inmates are being blamed for. It’s impossible to hold us responsible, as we were fighting for our life. But it seems to be easier to blame us because we’re all “savages” anyway.

The cover story they sold the media was that it happened over food conditions, but why would inmates riot with each other over food conditions? The food conditions were protested by our hunger strike in support of the California hunger strike two weeks prior, which many may not know took place because of the “sweep it under the rug” tactics used by CDCR and North Fork CCA so as to not affect its profit margin and image as a functional facility.

I have been here from the opening of this facility in 2008 to California inmates. My cellie, Anthony Robinson Jr., has continued to file Form 22s and 602s against this facility since his arrival in protest to the lack of preparedness, understaffing and political tricks being used to keep this facility running by the warden, the head of security and Oklahoma auditors.

The fact that inmates were able to take over buildings and controls to doors and were opening them to hurt inmates who were behind them is more than enough of a reason to bring light to the situation. Injuries ranged from minor to serious. Some inmates, including Kevin Hicks and Jabar Walton, were in critical condition. They say that the FBI has started a criminal investigation, but to what effect?

The facility seems to be more concerned about punishment and profit or loss. The main kitchen was partially destroyed, which made them cut back on food portions. They refuse to allow food purchases from canteen and the family package program in retaliation.
They say that the FBI has started a criminal investigation, but the facility seems to be more concerned about punishment and profit or loss.

The reason for the riot may never be known, but the more important issue is that this came at a time when we should be coming together. There are more serious concerns. Black and Brown relations need to come together! We have one common enemy which is the system!
Black and Brown relations need to come together! We have one common enemy which is the system!

Send our brother some love and light. Marcus Dalton and Anthony Robinson are cellmates, so Marcus can be reached in care of Anthony.

CCA giving Sayre cops “the runaround” on prison riot

Interesting follow-up coverage from what appears to be the Oklahoman’s on-line edition, newsok.com. In addition to exploring the attempts of local police to investigate the riot, it goes into the distribution of California prisoners in for-profit facilities across the country. 

———-from newsok.com———

Cause of October prison riot in Sayre continues to be withheld

The cause of the Oct. 11 riot at a private prison in Sayre has yet to be released due to ongoing investigation by local authorities.

 
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com  

Published: December 10, 2011



— Nearly a month after a riot that injured inmates at a private prison in western Oklahoma, prison officials say they do not have a cause that they can release.

They will say that 16 of the inmates who were hospitalized after the riot have since been released, but they won’t say what types of injuries they suffered in the Oct. 11 melee.

Mike Machak, spokesman for Corrections Corp. of America, said it’s too early to release details on the riot at the North Fork Correctional Facility.

“While we are not aware of any criminal charges that have been filed, we do know that the Sayre Police Department‘s investigation is ongoing,” Machak said.

“To that end, we do not want to release details that might undermine those ongoing efforts.”

Sayre Police Chief Ronnie Harrold said he has yet to receive anything from the prison regarding the riot. He said he thinks something is close to happening, but that the prison corporation has “been giving us the runaround.”

“It’s coming close to the point where we would expect for them to turn it over to us,” Harrold said. “At some point, if they want charges filed, they’ll have to turn it over to us.”

Prison spokeswoman Michelle Deherrera said the riot erupted just before noon, and the help of local law enforcement agencies was required to subdue the prisoners.

In addition to the 16 inmates who required hospitalization, another 30 were treated at a medical facility at the prison, she said.

Deherrera said no prison staff members or assisting law enforcement officers were injured.

The more than 2,000 prisoners held at the private prison are from California. Machak said inmates from Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Vermont have been housed at the prison over the past 12 years.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website, the state has more than 9,588 inmates serving time in out-of-state prisons.

In addition to North Fork, Arizona has two prisons that house 4,596 inmates from California. A facility in Mississippi has custody of an additional 2,592 prisoners.

California began transferring prisoners to out-of-state facilities in 2007 to alleviate overcrowding and restore rehabilitation programs in its state-run lockups, according to the California department’s website.

The move to transfer the inmates was prompted by an executive order issued in October 2006 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and was expected to be a temporary measure to allow prison reform in California.

Sayre CCA worst since prison opened.


Inmates but no employees injured in Sayre prison riot

BY RON JACKSON, TIFFANY GIBSON and MATT PATTERSON

Published: October 12, 2011

Beckham County Sheriff Scott Jay said Tuesday’s riot at the North Fork Correctional Facility is the worst he has heard about since the private prison opened in 1999.

When he arrived at the scene, Jay said. “We saw mass fighting all over the yard.”

Sixteen inmates were taken to area hospitals to be treated for injuries, according to a statement released about 8 p.m. by the operator of the private prison, Corrections Corp. of America. One had been returned to the prison by evening. The statement also said that 30 inmates were treated at the facility.

No staff injuries were reported, the statement said.

Prison spokeswoman Michelle Deherrera said the riot broke out about 11:45 a.m. at the medium-security facility that houses inmates from California.

Officers contained riot

Jay said he saw weapons in use by the brawling inmates, but he couldn’t identify what they were. Knowing prison culture, Jay said, he would speculate they were homemade weapons.

Smaller incidents have happened at the prison, Jay said, but he was only aware of one other time when local law officers were called in to help.

Officers from the Beckham County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sayre and Elk City Police Department, as well as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, helped contain the riot.

Ambulance crews from nearby towns such as Elk City and Erick provided medical care.

At 5 p.m., after as many as a dozen patients had been taken to the hospital, seven ambulances remained lined up outside the gates.

Jay said at least 11 ground ambulance runs were made from the prison.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said at least two injured prisoners were taken by medical helicopter to Midwest Regional Medical Center. Midwest City police were asked to provide security until prison employees arrived, Clabes said.

Inmates also were airlifted to OU Medical Center, a spokesman said, but he referred further questions to corrections authorities.

“Right now, we don’t know if this was racially motivated, or they had a beef with the facility or what,” Jay said.

Deherrera did not release any information about a possible reason for the riot.

Sayre police escorted ambulances to the Sayre hospital, and Elk City police provided security for ambulances that took injured inmates to the hospital in Elk City, Sayre Police Chief Eddie Holland said.

“We’ll be here as long as it takes,” Holland said about 4 p.m. “Right now, the whole place is a crime scene.”

Relatives concerned

Relatives of prison employees, gathered at the county barn about two miles away shortly after the riot broke out, spent the afternoon pacing and waiting for their cellphones to ring.

A Beckham County dispatcher said local law officers and ambulance crews were called about 11:50 a.m. to assist in the riot at 1605 E Main St.

Bill Barrett, spokesman for Great Plains Regional Medical Center in Elk City, said multiple patients were taken to that hospital.

Deherrera said public safety was never threatened. She did not say how long it took the staff to contain the riot.

Dale Denwalt, a reporter for the Daily Elk Citian, said a sheriff’s deputy provided details about the riot to the waiting relatives.

A source inside the prison said 530 people are employed there but did not release numbers on how many were at work when the riot broke out.

Louis Thompson, 20, of Elk City, said his mother, Cherie, is a correctional officer with CCA.

He said he heard about the riot from his sister and was pacing across the street from the prison throughout the afternoon, worrying about his mother’s safety.

“She said they had a couple of small riots, but nothing very big,” Thompson said.

“She said she could feel something was about to happen, and it did. I just hope she’s all right.”

Deherrera said the prison was being placed on complete lockdown, with all inmates confined to their cells and movement restricted until further notice.

“When I arrived a little bit after 12:30, the situation from outside the facility seemed calm,” Denwalt said. “There were some inmates who were in the courtyard sitting against the wall, and the guards were obviously watching them.”

According to the Oklahoma Corrections Department, North Fork can house up to 2,500 male inmates.