Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Correctional System, Prison Problems, Violent crimes | Posted on 08-01-2013
When the big prison riot at North Fork Correctional Facility in Beckham County erupted in October, 2011, it required help from lots of law enforcement from surrounding communities. The facility is owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), but the private prison does not have the wherewithal to put down a riot, especially one of this magnitude. Forty six prisoners were injured, sixteen of them taken to local hospitals, and three of them were critically injured.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections wants to know what happened. None of the perpetrators has yet been prosecuted. Department of Corrections did not have what it considers adequate reports, nor does the local district attorney have reports adequate to prosecute anyone. Department of Corrections would like to demand more, but there is apparently a hole in the laws, such that Department of Corrections seeks an amendment in the laws for reporting by private prisons.
The proposed change in law would require a private prison to provide information to the Department of Corrections regarding an riot, escape “or other serious emergency and facility operations” upon request of Department of Corrections.
A couple of months after the riot, neither the Department of Corrections nor local law enforcement had received any reports from CCA. Now CCA says it has long since submitted its report. However, the local prosecutor says he is still waiting for something in a form he can prosecute.
CCA sent its own investigators who compiled a 2,700 page report on the riot, and they delivered it several months after the riot. One of the the problems is physical evidence needed for prosecutions. It has been kept somewhere in lockers and has not been prepared for use in the courtroom. The CCA investigators did not have the necessary forensic experience to prepare a case for the courtroom, or else they forgot what they once knew. Assembling physical evidence, the testimony of witnesses and otherwise putting a case together for effective use before a jury is not just an exercise in logic, nor are all the methods necessarily intuitive. It requires experience to know how to do it. Ask any criminal defense attorney. Cases are won and lost every day in courtrooms from the success or failure to fit such pieces together. Some of the physical evidence in this matter has just sat in a locker and was never sent to the laboratory for analysis. That includes blood analyses and fingerprint comparisons.
What about the cost for all the local law enforcement required to put down the riot, a riot that took place on private property? Apparently, it’s just the cost of doing business, since the CCA prison brings a $20 million per year payroll to Beckham County and is the largest employer in Sayre. Obviously, the area residents consider the prison to be an economic contributor, so no one is complaining about the cost borne by local governments for the riot. That is surely why the district attorney and the local law enforcement officials are now diligently down-playing any complaints about CCA.
Neither is anyone complaining that all the prisoners are from California, shipped here due to California’s overfull prisons. Apparently, people believe that prisoners bring economic benefit whatever state they may come from. But all 2,000 of those California prisoners at the North Fork Facility are projected to be gone by the end of 2013. The only issue officially from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, is that private prisons are not required to provide sufficient reporting to the Department.