(Albion, NY) – State investigators are continuing to look into the apparent poisoning earlier this week of a correction officer at Orleans Correctional Facility. The apparent assault left the officer hospitalized for two days and it is not yet clear when he will be able to return to work.
The incident took place on Wednesday afternoon. The correction officer took a sip from a store-bought drink that he had been consuming throughout the day, and immediately noticed burning in his throat and became violently ill. The officer was initially taken to Medina Memorial Hospital and later transported to Buffalo General, where he stayed for two days with pain in his mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach. Testing on the drink found PH-levels three-to-five times higher when compared to an untainted sample.
The dorm at the Orleans Correctional Facility where the incident took place was locked-down and searched immediately after the officer became ill. The New York State Police and Inspector General's Office are now assisting with the investigation as well.
On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state will close four more correctional facilities across the state, bringing the total of closures since the Governor took office to 15.
"This incident at Orleans is just the latest proof that Governor Cuomo and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision have an irresponsible approach to managing the budget of this public safety agency," said Donn Rowe, President of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA). "The state wants to create the illusion that the system is rife with empty beds, but this is only made possible by double-bunking inmates. Instead of taking the opportunity to right-size the system – and make it safer for correction officers and inmates – the state continues to warehouse inmates by double-bunking and maintaining crowded and understaffed facilities."
The incident follows a number of violent assaults at Orleans, reflecting a general rise in violence perpetrated against NYSCOPBA members statewide in recent years. Since 2011, while the overall number of inmate-on-officer assaults has gone down, the rate of assaults has actually increased. The same statistical trend can also be seen in the number of inmate-on-inmate assaults and incidents of contraband being found in the possession of inmates. The trend points to the fact that while the inmate population has decreased, the state is housing a more violent inmate in medium security settings, like Orleans.