Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Friday April 13, 2001

Inmate fight, use of chemical agents prompt partial lockdown at Elmira prison

Commissioner Glenn S. Goord today ordered the lockdown of a 319-inmate cellblock at Elmira Correctional Facility after staff was forced to use chemical agents Thursday night to quell a fight involving approximately 60 Black and Hispanic inmates assigned to the housing unit.

The lockdown of I-Block will permit security staff to interview inmates, review videotapes in an attempt to identify all participants and continue their investigation into the cause of the incident. Regular programming for all of Elmira's 1,839 inmates was suspended this morning and they were confined to their cells to free up staff for the ongoing investigation. Providing no further incidents occur, Commissioner Goord said regular programming will resume unabated, starting with the noon meal, for the remaining 1,520 Elmira inmates who are not assigned to I-Block.

At 9:50 p.m. Thursday, a fight initially involving two inmates erupted in the field house, which at the time housed 115 inmates from I-Block. Additional inmates quickly entered the two-man foray and refused repeated staff instructions to stop fighting. Two chemical agent projectiles were then discharged from an overhead gas booth by security staff, and the inmates then complied with orders to stop fighting and lay on the floor. They were frisked by security staff for weapons, examined by medical staff for injuries and slowly escorted from the area and given showers in accordance with decontamination procedures.

Three inmates received sutures at the facility's infirmary for various lacerations and several other inmates received minor bruises which did not require medical treatment. There were no injuries to staff although those who were exposed to chemical agents while responding to the disturbance also were given showers in accordance with decontamination procedures.

Correction Officers recovered homemade weapons consisting of eight razors and shanks from the scene, as well as part of a metal weight machine unit and a broken cane. As of this morning, 48 inmates had been identified as participants in the incident. Several will be transferred to other maximum-security facilities, and all inmates identified as participants will face disciplinary charges.

It is not yet known how long the lockdown will last. It means that all 310 inmates assigned to I-Block will remain in their cells around the clock while the investigation proceeds. Inmates can be escorted from their cells for visits and approved medical calls but they will be fed in their cells and all programming and recreational activities for them are currently suspended.

The last lockdown at Elmira - a maximum-security prison in Chemung County which opened in 1876 and currently houses 1,839 of the state's 69,768 inmates - was from February 7-13.