WENY News - Union Speaks on Corrections Officer Safety following Elmira Corr

Union Speaks on Corrections Officer Safety following Elmira Correctional Lock Down

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- It's been a few weeks since a string of gang-related fights sent Elmira Correctional Facility into lock down. Over the course of five days, seven fights broke out, forcing officers to use pepper spray in an attempt to contain inmates.

Thirty weapons were seized--a number the state's correctional officer's union, NYSCOPBA, is now calling alarming.

Incidents like this are happening across the region and are causing officials to speak out.

"I'm always alarmed when they find one weapon, let alone thirty," says Joe Miano, NYSCOPBA Western Region Vice President. "That just shows it's not one inmate trying to have some protection, but there's more to it at a larger sale."

Just in the past few weeks, eleven grams of heroin and 300 grams of marijuana were seized from a package at Auburn Correctional Facility.

Over at Bare Hill Correctional in Franklin County, 46 scalpel blades were discovered.

The union says incidents like these present just as many issues as the violence that prompted the lock down in Elmira.

"They try to break up the gangs as much as they can, but there's so many of them," says Miano. "When they move them from one facility, they just start doing the same behavior in another. That leads to my next argument as far as the punishment that's in place."

Miano also says more routine searches are necessary. 

He also encourages lawmakers to reinstate a program restricting packages for state inmates. The program was suspended just ten days after its launch received significant backlash. 

In response, the Department of Corrections says "We take the safety of all staff, incarcerated individuals and visitors seriously, with initiatives that include additional training and de-escalation tactics. The Elmira Correctional Facility is also in the midst of installing hundreds of cameras that will enhance the safety and security of staff and inmates."

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