COXSACKIE, NY A recent assault on a female corrections officer at the Greene Correctional Facility and the subsequent suspension of another officer deemed responsible for the incident sparked a protest outside the facility Wednesday by members of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
A male corrections officer was suspended after the assault for failing to follow state procedure by leaving a supply room door unlocked. Because the door was unlocked, the inmate accused in the assault was able to hide in the room before assaulting the officer, according to state officials.
In a press release, though, the union claimed the officer was suspended by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in “an effort to draw attention away from recent criticism … by the union in a statewide press campaign.”
The union campaign, which started Tuesday in Elmira, cited an alleged increase in inmate assaults on staff members, inaccurate reporting of violent incidents and “failure to fill budget positions, staff facilities adequately and provide a safe work environment.”
Wednesday morning, corrections officers attended a rally outside the prison in Coxsackie to protest the officer’s suspension. More than 100 attended, according to the union.
State corrections officials disputed the union’s claim that the suspension was a diversion.
“Had DOCCS (the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) responded … with anything less than a suspension for the correction officer who did not follow procedure, it could be perceived as an unwillingness to take the incident seriously,” department officials said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. “A review of the incident by DOCCS found the assault on staff would have been avoided altogether had DOCCS’ long-standing protocols been followed.
“Furthermore, the union’s claim that the suspension was meant to distract criticism away from the agency is completely false,” the officials added. “Since the union themselves admitted that the incident was a serious offense … it would seem appropriate that the union would want to hold accountable those responsible for the incident.”
According to the union, on Oct. 21, the female officer was assaulted by Omar Richardson, an inmate serving a 20-year sentence for attempted murder, robbery and possession of a weapon. Richardson, who allegedly has been disciplined multiple times during his incarceration for stalking and sex offenses, “hid in a closed in a supply room and then attacked a female officer when she walked into the room.”
The union also said Richardson should not have been in a medium-security prison because of his violent history.
In a prepared statement, acting state Corrections Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci called the officers’ claims “unfortunate.”
“An investigation found the assault on staff would have been avoided altogether” had procedure been followed, Annucci said. He said the male officer’s actions were “ a clear violation that endangers everyone — allowing the inmate to gain access to the room and carry out his assault.”
Annucci said Richardson will face “the ultimate consequences of his actions,” including 11 disciplinary infractions and potential criminal prosecution. Richardson’s release date in 2018 may also be delayed, Annucci said.
From The Troy Record