GOWANDA Two corrections officers are recovering after an inmate used a concealed contraband weapon in an attack Friday at Gowanda Correctional Facility in Erie County. This is just the latest incident in a spate of recent violence against New York State corrections officers both locally and throughout the state. Both officers were treated and released Friday after having been slashed with a makeshift knife.
A female corrections officer stopped inmate Duane Mims in the main mess hall after noticing that he was acting suspiciously. Mims was asked to remove his watch and boot, and upon doing so, turned and immediately slashed the officer on her left forearm four times, causing four minor lacerations which required no stitches. A second corrections officer was also slashed on his palm when responding to restrain Mims. Both officers received tetanus shots as a precaution. After restraining Mims, officers found two weapons, which appeared to be the serrated metal strip used on the large rolls of saran wrap. Mims was due for a parole hearing next month. He is expected to be charged with assault.
Friday's attack came one day after a serious assault in Auburn left one corrections sergeant in the hospital. The sergeant was attacked by an inmate and needed five stitches on his face, while also sustaining two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a swollen knee. And last month, in a pair of violent incidents perpetrated by the same inmate, four corrections officers were assaulted with two requiring hospital treatment at Collins Correctional Facility.
NYSCOPBA recently released a fact sheet detailing what they call "dangerously low staffing levels" throughout the state's correctional system. According to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's (DOCCS) own formula, there are 727 fewer corrections officers than considered necessary to safely guard New York's prisons, and 238 less than the staffing level approved by the State Division of Budget.
Though the prison population in New York State has decreased by 8 percent since 2009, working in New York's corrections system is less safe today than it was four years ago. Since 2009, the rate of inmate on staff assaults has increased by 7.6 percent, while escape incidents have quadrupled and contraband incidents are up nearly 5 percent. Based on DOCCS statistics, the likelihood of a correction officer or Sergeant being assaulted by an inmate is at its highest level since 2007 correction officers were 13 percent more likely to be assaulted by an inmate in 2011 than they were in 2007. Though the inmate population declined, the rate of violent incidents hasn't decreased enough to keep pace with the loss of staff. NYSCOPBA continues to call for an independent review of the entire correctional system.