ALBANY — U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the death of an inmate at the state's Fishkill prison.
The Manhattan-based federal prosecutor said in a statement that a joint probe with Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady is investigating the death of Samuel Harrell, who died after several prison guards beat him, according to affidavits from more than a dozen other prisoners first reported by The New York Times.
State officials announced Tuesday that Fishkill was getting a new superintendent whose mandate would include reviewing “all safety concerns” in the building where Harrell died. The Correctional Association, an advocacy group with a legislative mandate to inspect state prisons, had called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a probe of conditions in the state's prison system, citing a “pervasive culture of violence and abuse.”
Spokespeople for the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The NY Times has reported over the past few weeks that there have been 60+ abuse allegations levied against guards at Clinton Correction Facility since June as well as allegations that a group of corrections officers known as the "Beat Up Squad" had beaten a prisoner to death at Fishkill prison, then covered the murder up by claiming he died of a complications from synthetic marijuana use.
Other than the Times and the Times Union, the abuse allegations and homicide were ignored by news media around the state.
The Daily News ignored the abuse allegations and the homicide even as they blasted Bill de Blasio and his handling of Rikers Island two days in a row on the front cover of the paper.
Same goes for New York politicos - for example, Criminal Justice Reform Warrior Hakeem Jeffries, who had just given Cuomo an award from the Urban League for his "leadership" on criminal justice reform issues, completely ignored the Clinton/Fishkill allegations.
With Bharara picking up the probe into the Fishkill homicide, the story ought to be ignored no more.
It's a big story and it needs to get the same attention that the Rikers abuse has gotten.
We'll see if it does.
Given that the story affects Cuomo and not de Blasio, I have a feeling it won't get the attention it deserves from either media or politicos.
That's how things have gone so far and I see no reason for any of that to change.
Hope I'm wrong - what's going on in the state prison system is horrendous, needs to be stopped and those responsible need to be brought to justice.