Two correction officers at Corrigan assaulted by inmate

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The union representing the state's correction officers is raising concerns about safety and security of staff at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville after two correction officers were assaulted by an inmate there Saturday night.

The two officers were sent to the hospital with serious injuries, according to a news release issued Sunday night by AFSCME Local 1565, which represents correction officers, parole officers, maintenance officers, counselors and others. They've since been released from the hospital.

"This attack never should have happened," Local 1565 President Michael Tuthill said in a statement Sunday night. "We fault the facility warden (Steven Faucher) and his supervisory staff for creating an atmosphere that puts us at risk. We have no confidence in this warden's leadership."

Karen Martucci, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, said in an emailed statement that the inmate is known to be affiliated with a dangerous street gang, and the incident is "being reviewed by the facility administration to verify if policies and procedures were followed and ensure that the inmate is held accountable for his actions."

"We will not tolerate acts of violence within our correctional facilities," Martucci said.

She described Faucher, the warden, as someone with an "extensive custodial background and a strong reputation of prioritizing staff safety and wellness above all else."

"We have complete confidence in his leadership and vast capabilities to appropriately manage this isolated incident," she said.

The inmate, whose name has not been released, was transferred from Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, the state's only maximum security institution, on Friday to one of Corrigan's two "security risk group" units for high-risk offenders, said Steve Wales, corresponding secretary of AFSCME Local 1565 and a correction officer at Corrigan.

The inmate threatened a member of the staff Friday night after being transferred to Corrigan, Wales said, threatening to “cut his face off as soon as he got out of the cell.”

Wales, who was working at Corrigan on Saturday, said the inmate was being "very disruptive" in his cell, kicking at the door and screaming, so an officer went to talk to him. During that time, the inmate threatened to kill the officer and other staff, Wales said.

The lieutenant on duty Saturday was notified and came to speak with the inmate, who was permitted to come out later during shower and recreation time for the inmates.

"It never should've come to that. He should've gone to segregation right away," Wales said.

On the way to the shower, the inmate, who was being escorted by two correction officers, kept stopping. The officers were standing behind him, and at one point the inmate turned and began fighting the officers, Wales said.

Local 1565 believes the assault on Corrigan staff is a reminder that criminal justice reform measures designed to reduce the inmate population and down-scale state prison operations pose risks to staff.

"Over the last several years, we have seen a major weakening of the deterrents to violent and anti-social behavior by inmates. The Lamont administration and the Department need to take steps to improve safety and security at our facilities and in our communities," Tuthill said.

But DOC Commissioner Scott Semple said data doesn't support the union's position on criminal justice reforms posing a threat to staff safety.

"Incidents resulting in staff injury are of the utmost concern for the Department of Correction," Semple said in a statement. "We closely monitor statistics that speak to these types of scenarios. Agency-wide, staff assaults are down by more than 17 percent from last year and nearly 29 percent when compared to two years ago. Clearly, this data is not indicative of prison reform having a negative impact on staff safety."

j.bergman@theday.com

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