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NY prison chief: assaults behind bars ‘extremely disturbing,’ ‘sheer savagery’

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 2:08 PM EST
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - The head of the state’s prison system is warning attacks in the prisons “will not be tolerated.”

That’s after “some individuals confined within the Department who lately, and without warning or provocation, have chosen to commit extremely serious assaults against staff,” Anthony Annucci wrote in a memo which went public Wednesday.

“While there has always been the occasional very troubling incident, the trend I am seeing of late, in terms of the sheer savagery of the assault, the randomness of the assault, and the lack of any precipitating event before the assault, is extremely disturbing,” Annucci wrote in the memo.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections And Community Supervision confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

Annucci’s memo comes after an inmate at a central New York prison attacked a female corrections officer; two corrections officers were injured by an inmate who bit one of them and cut the other a nail; nine officers were injured in four separate incidents at a Utica-area prison.

Annucci warns that attacks on anyone in prison will result in “holding the guilty party fully accountable in a court of law.”

“Money is no object when it comes to staff safety.

“More importantly, any violent felony assault conviction will lead to an additional determinate sentence of imprisonment, that must be imposed consecutive to the existing sentence of imprisonment.

“Furthermore, a new felony conviction could even lead to sentencing as either a persistent felony offender, or persistent violent felony offender. In both scenarios, a maximum term of life would be imposed,” Annucci wrote.

The Republican leader in the state Senate, Rob Ortt, called the memo ‘deeply troubling.’

“Throughout New York State, we have seen a disturbing spike in violence not only in our correctional facilities, but also in our local communities,” Ortt said in a statement.

“Meanwhile, the Democrats in New York continue to champion pro-criminal policies that endanger innocent people. It is inexcusable that guards, civilians, and inmates are at risk,” Ortt said.

He said Republicans support a proposal from the state’s corrections officers for a study of the violence, and a plan to end it.

The head of the union representing corrections officers told 7 News “It’s about time they finally recognized this. It’s been a trend for 10 years.”

“It took some pretty vicious attacks to get some attention,” said Mike Powers.

Powers said his union is pushing for an answer to an important question; why, if the inmate population is going down, is violence increasing?

“We’re hoping for some stronger discipline,” he said.

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