Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Guards Beat And Kill Prisoners In Andrew Cuomo's New York With Impunity

Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz have another piece in the NY Times detailing the systemic abuse of prisoners by guards that goes on in the New York State prison system under Governor Cuomo's leadership.

Last week they detailed prison abuse at Clinton Correction Facility after two prisoners escaped there in June - more than 60 prisoners have alleged being beaten, choked, threatened with waterboarding and other abuses at the hands of corrections officers at the prison.

This morning Winerip and Schwirtz detail the homicide of a prisoner at the hands of corrections officers known as the "Beat Up Squad" at Fishkill Correctional Facility:

On the evening of April 21 in Building 21 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell, an inmate with a history of erratic behavior linked to bipolar disorder, packed his bags and announced he was going home, though he still had several years left to serve on his drug sentence.

Not long after, he got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers — including members of a group known around the prison as the Beat Up Squad — repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. “Like he was a trampoline, they were jumping on him,” said Edwin Pearson, an inmate who watched from a nearby bathroom.
Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase, according to the inmates’ accounts. One inmate reported seeing him lying on the landing, “bent in an impossible position.”

“His eyes were open,” the inmate wrote, “but they weren’t looking at anything.”

Corrections officers called for an ambulance, but according to medical records, the officers mentioned nothing about a physical encounter. Rather, the records showed, they told the ambulance crew that Mr. Harrell probably had an overdose of K2, a synthetic marijuana.

He was taken to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital and at 10:19 p.m. was pronounced dead.

In the four months since, state corrections officials have provided only the barest details about what happened at Fishkill, a medium-security prison in Beacon, N.Y., about 60 miles north of New York City. Citing a continuing investigation by the State Police, officials for weeks had declined to comment on the inmates’ accounts of a beating.

An autopsy report by the Orange County medical examiner, obtained by The New York Times, concluded that Mr. Harrell, 30, had cuts and bruises to the head and extremities and had no illicit drugs in his system, only an antidepressant and tobacco. He died of cardiac arrhythmia, the autopsy report said, “following physical altercation with corrections officers.”

The manner of death: Homicide.

A week ago, Governor Cuomo received an award from the National Urban League for showing leadership in criminal justice reform.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries handed that award over to Cuomo at a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform.

Since that time, Winerip and Schwirtz have written two articles detailing what amounts to the systemic abuse and murder of prisoners in the New York State prison system and we have heard not a peep from any New York politician or criminal justice reform advocate on these allegations.

The National Urban League just gave Cuomo an award for being a leader in criminal justice reform - you'd think they might be upset that Cuomo's running a prison system with endemic prisoner abuse and murder in it.

But you'd be wrong about that - so far silence from them.

As for Congressman Jeffries, the guy who handed over the Urban League award to Cuomo, so far silence from him too on these allegations.

The same goes for the rest of the New York political establishment - crickets abound.

Last I saw, Russell Simmons and other celebrity criminal justice advocates who were hailing Cuomo a couple of months ago as a criminal justice reform warrior have been silent on the horrific allegations of abuse, torture and murder of prisoners by NY corrections officers.

It looks like these prisoners who are getting beaten, choked, threatened with waterboarding and murdered are out of luck because its happening under Governor Cuomo's leadership and the very same politicians and reformers who were happy to hammer Bill de Blasio over "Broken Windows" policing or Rikers Island prisoner abuse are loathe to say anything untoward about the abuse and murder that is taking place in the state prison system under Governor Cuomo's leadership.

In short, prisoners can be beaten, choked, abused, tortured and murdered in Governor Cuomo's New York by prisoner guards known as the "Beat Down Squad" and nothing - nothing - will happen to them.

Not unless these prisoners get a transfer to Rikers, where Russell Simmons or Hakeem Jeffries will be happy to stand up for them then, since they're fine taking a rhetorical bat to de Blasio any old time.

But so long as standing up for the prisoners getting beaten, choked and killed in the prison system means taking on Governor Cuomo, not so much.

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