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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: prison fights

FBI probing assault at Idaho prison

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious.

No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating.

Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units.

On Tuesday, hours after the AP published the video, the top federal prosecutor in Idaho told the AP that the FBI has been investigating whether guards violated the civil rights of inmates at the prison, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

The investigation concerns the prison’s rate of violence and covers multiple assaults between inmates, including the attack on Elabed, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said. (Elabed is pictured above in July)

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is cooperating with federal agents, as it has with other law enforcement overseeing the prisons.

Lawsuits from inmates contend the company denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup “gladiator school” because it is so violent.

The AP initially sought a copy of the videos shot on Jan. 18 from state court, but Idaho 4th District Judge Patrick Owen denied that request. The AP had already obtained a copy and decided to publish the videos after a person familiar with the case verified their authenticity.

The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man.

About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma.

CCA, the nation’s largest private prison company, said it was “highly disappointed and deeply concerned” over AP’s decision to release the videos.

“Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public,” the prison company said in a statement.

Read the rest of the story by AP writer Rebecca Boone by clicking the link below.

Cellmate loses eye in fight w/ killer

A violent inmate who tortured and killed his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail six years ago, resulting in a $180,000 settlement by the county, is suspected of gouging out another cellmate’s eye at Airway Heights Corrections Center this week. 

Michael L. West, 34, (right) attacked Chad E. Bolstad, 25, (left) in a cell the men shared with another inmate Sunday night, officials confirmed Wednesday. 

“(Bolstad’s) left eye was gouged out at the socket and the right eye was damaged to the point where it appears he’s going to lose sight, too,” said Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett. “It was pretty graphic. He was using his bare hands.”

West threatened to attack the third cellmate, Gary L. Welch (right), telling Welch “about how he’s Lucifer and he wants him to bow to him,” Bennett said. 

Welch pressed a panic button to notify prison staff, and West attacked him, according to police. Prison guards arrived to find West trying to strangle Welch with a towel, Bennett said. Bolstad’s left eye was hanging out of its socket.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 19, 2007: County to pay $180,000 in inmate’s murder

July 27, 2005: Man gets 46 years for rape, jail killing

Oct. 15, 2004: Homicide witness say he tried to warn jailers

Oct. 14, 2004: Man strangled in jail feared for his life

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