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NY Mostly Fails To Fire Prison Guards Accused Of Brutality

Over 12 years, New York state officials have documented the results of attacks by hundreds of prison guards on the people in their custody. When the state corrections department has tried to use this evidence to fire guards, it has failed 90 percent of the time, an investigation by The Marshall Project found. A review of prison disciplinary records found more than 290 cases in which the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision tried to fire employees it said physically abused prisoners or covered up mistreatment that ranged from group beatings to withholding food. The agency considered these employees a threat to the safety and security of prisons. Officers were ousted in just 28 cases. The state tried to fire one guard for using excessive force in three separate incidents within three years and failed each time. He remains on the payroll.

An officer who broke his baton hitting a handcuffed prisoner 35 times was not fired. Neither were guards who beat a prisoner at Attica Correctional Facility so badly that he needed 13 staples to close gashes in his scalp. Nor were officers who battered a mentally ill man, injuring him from face to groin. The man hanged himself the next day. In dozens of documented cases involving severe injuries of prisoners, including three deaths, the agency did not even try to discipline officers. For decades, the workings of the prison discipline system were hidden from public view under a secrecy law adopted at the urging of powerful law enforcement unions. After the Legislature repealed that law in 2020, The Marshall Project obtained 5,600 records of disciplinary cases against prison employees dating to 2010. The records probably reflect only a small fraction of the violence guards have inflicted in New York’s corrections system. The agency said it takes officer accountability seriously and has “zero tolerance” for violence in prisons. Daniel Martuscello III, the deputy corrections commissioner, said the number of officers accused of abuse is a small subset of the 16,000 guards.


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