Magazine article Corrections Today

New York State Officers Quell Dorm Disturbance

Magazine article Corrections Today

New York State Officers Quell Dorm Disturbance

Article excerpt

Early on Jan. 30, 1992, trouble erupted in Dorm Block E2 of the medium security Washington Correctional Facility in Comstock, N.Y. A gang member attacked a rival, sparking a small incident. Several inmates were injured, but because the prison's infirmary was crowded and the injuries minor, the participants--including the inmate who provoked the fight--were returned to the dorm.

When Corrections Officers Gary Roberts and Michael Downey came on duty at 11 p.m., the dorm still had not totally quieted down. Roberts was posted in E2 and Downey was working as the "rover" who checks the various dorms throughout the shift. Downey recalled later that because he sensed tension, he paid special attention to the dorm.

Shortly after 1 a.m., with the dorm dark and seemingly quiet, another inmate slashed the instigator of the earlier incident as he slept, striking him over and over again with a razor.

Downey followed Roberts into the darkened dorm and grabbed the attacking inmate, preventing him from continuing the assault. Other inmates, meanwhile, were throwing chairs and lockers, adding to the disturbance by starting diversionary fights and trying to rouse the other dorms.

Roberts, who attempted to shield the slashed inmate in a corner opposite the dorm exit, was surrounded by a group of hostile inmates. Meanwhile, other brawling inmates prevented Downey from rescuing either Roberts or the wounded inmate. "You don't know until it's over how bad it is," Downey said later. …

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