Lawton_Oklahoma prison officials say that they have adopted new security measures, and transferred 16 inmates suspected of starting several fights to out-of-state prisons. The move should partially lift the lockdowns from the seven prisons that were involved in the fights.
In May and June of this year, there were deadly fights among inmates across the state - two of them deadly. On May 19, two inmates were stabbed to death during a fight at the Oklahoma reformatory in Granite. That same afternoon, three inmates were injured at the GEO Correctional Facility in Lawton. At the Dick Conner Correctional Facility in Hominy, four more inmates were stabbed.
Three months later, prison officials are loosening the lockdowns. However, they are enhancing their security. GEO Prison is a private facility, so it's isolating the small percentage of inmates that they believe are instigating fights, and loosening restrictions on those who aren't involved. At the other six Oklahoma prisons, the new security measures include using 97 wands for scanning inmates for weapons, restricting inmates to smaller groups during meal time, and changing visitation procedures aimed at preventing visitors from smuggling in cell phones, drugs, or any other contraband.
Since June, fights at four prisons may have killed two inmates and left more than a dozen others hospitalized. Two of the seven on lockdown this summer included the Oklahoma State Reformatory at Granite, and the Lawton GEO Correctional Facility. GEO's lockdown began June 30 after an incident of violence between some inmates. "There was an incident with a small number of inmates between each other," says Lawton GEO Warden David Miller. "It looked like something could escalate, so, and especially based with what was going on in other parts of the state, we decided to secure the facility and keep it locked down."
Granite's lockdown began May 19 after a bloody prison yard fight that left two dead, and 12 wounded. Warden Eric Franklin was out of town at the time of theTuesday interview, but Deputy Warden Rick Whitten spoke with 7News by telephone. "We've just reacted upon a need to retain security and protect both the offenders and our staff," he says. "We're working toward getting back to some normal operation, but we've tightened our security."
Whitten says Granite Prison's status continues to be under "partial lockdown" as they continue to control "affected units" - those that were involved in the fights. However, he says they are letting uninvolved units out of isolation. While Granite is controlling entire units, Miller says that GEO is isolating inmates who they believe are responsible for instigating the fights. "Over the last several weeks we've gone through the process of identifying who we believe to be involved, and what the causes are, and trying to separate those from other people in the facility by population," he says.
Public Information Office for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says that the inmates at the five other prisons are out of isolation, but are being released from their cells in smaller numbers than previously. Guards now use their wands to more frequently scan for weapons.
Prison officials say they believe the inmates involved in the fights that occurred on June 30 may have used cell phones or other means of communication to plan the disturbance. As a result, Oklahoma prisons are now racking down even harder on visitors, to ensure that phones aren't brought into the facilities.
In addition to the sixteen inmates who were sent out of state, others involved in the fights were sent to a maximum-security unit in Holdenville.