On March 22, 2005, a riot at a private prison run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) near Cushing, Oklahoma resulted in the death of one prisoner and injuries to fifteen others, one of them critically. No guards or other CCA employees were injured.
Adam Gene Lippert, 32, suffered a fatal stab wound to the chest during the riot at the Cimarron Correctional Facility (CCF). Lippert was serving a 10-year sentence for a drug-related crime. He allegedly bore tattoos identified with the Aryan Brotherhood. He arrived at CCF on December 2, 2004. He died at the Cushing Regional Hospital 90 minutes after the riot was quelled. He had been beaten and stabbed multiple times.
Lucky Miller--a police sergeant in Stroud, Oklahoma, who grew up with Lippert in Davenport, Oklahoma., and arrested him for the conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine charge that sent him to CCF--described Lippert as a good person whose life had spun out of control due to drugs and alcohol.
I've known Adam my whole life," said Miller. I liked Adam. Deep down he was a good person. Drugs and alcohol started controlling his life. I hate it that he got killed. He's got a baby.
According to CCA, the fight broke out between rival racial gangs who were being allowed to recreate together in the prison's gym at around 1:20 p.m. CCA stated that prisoners from one gang broke into a. storage room containing aluminum softball bats and horseshoes which were then used to attack the other group. Later investigation showed that the prisoners checked out the bats and horseshoes and that the fight occurred on the recreation yard located next to the gym. The fight lasted about ten minutes during which no tear gas was deployed and no guards became involved. According to Oklahoma ACLU staff attorney Tina Izadi, the ACLU is investigating the guards' lack of response and the recreating of rival gang members simultaneously in. the same gym. Both of these sound like problems caused by poorly-trained guards.
Linda Hurst, the prison's spokesperson, estimated the number of prisoners in the gym at the outbreak of the fight at 180 and the number of participants in the altercation" at between 40 and 65." Hurst emphasized that the 40-to-65-man armed melee was not to be called a riot.
It's a prison," said Hurst. Things like this do happen.
CCF did not initially notify state officials regarding the riot, but notified the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation once officials realized that a homicide had occurred. Cushing Police Chief Bill Myers was informed about the riot six minutes after it was quelled. He responded by providing extra security for the prisoners who were taken to area hospitals and to guard the prison's perimeter.
CCF is a 960-bed medium-security prison owned and operated by CCA since it was built in 1996 at a cost of $35 million. It currently houses 967 Oklahoma state prisoners, 445 of whom are classified as violent. CCA currently' houses 4,469 Oklahoma state prisoners in four Oklahoma private prisons, charging $44.17 per prisoner per day.
This is hardly the first riot at a CCA-run prison. It's not even the first one at a CCA-run prison in Oklahoma. In June, 2004, a riot between rival Hispanic gangs at the CCA-run Diamondback Correctional Facility near Watonga, Oklahoma, left two prisoners critically injured. That riot lasted more than four hours, much longer than CCA officials admitted. The Arizona Department of Corrections, which housed some prisoners there, issued a report that blamed CCA for the riot. [PLN, Jan. 2005, p. 31].
Oklahoma prisoners have been feeling the aftershocks of the Cushing quake. On March 24 and 25, 2005, violent altercations between black and white prisoners occurred at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Two prisoners suffered multiple stab wounds in those incidents. On April 24, 2005, there was a melee at the Dick Conner Correctional Center near Hominy, Oklahoma. One prisoner was injured sufficiently to require hospitalization in. the fighting, which involved white, Hispanic and Native American prisoners battling black prisoners.
State Representative Terry Harrison, D-McAlester, described the situation in the state prisons as a ticking bomb fueled by a lack of guards caused by insufficient funding.
Six prisoners have been charged with the first-degree murder of Lippert under an Oklahoma law that provides for the charging of all participants in a riot that results in a killing and allows for the death penalty. Eric Manquel Johnson, an Oklahoma state prisoner sentenced to life-without-parole for a 1992 murder, was identified on a videotape of the riot as making stabbing motions toward Lippert.
Court documents state that the other five prisoners charged with Lippert's murder also committed other crimes during the riot. Shawn Paul Byrd, who has 17 convictions for drugs and illegal firearms, allegedly stabbed prisoner Steven R. Pigg. Eugene Gutierrez, who is serving a ten-year sentence for running a roadblock and possession of a stolen vehicle, was also allegedly captured on videotape stabbing prisoner Jason Mallard in the neck. The videotapes also allegedly show prisoner Cedric Dewayne Poore, who is serving a 35-year, sentence for robbery, beating prisoners Marvin Harm and James Watkins with a bat. Sedarfes L. Moore, who was convicted of cocaine possession and is serving a ten-year sentence, is also shown beating Harm with a bat. CCF guard Justin Luckinbill stated that, he ordered Moore three times to stop, but Moore merely stared at Luckinbill as he continued to beat Harm with the bat. Jason J. Williamson, who has a 22-year sentence for drugs, allegedly beat prisoner Jeffery Parnell repeatedly with a bat, as shown on the videotape, which also shows him beating other unidentified prisoners with the bat.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections Investigator Tim Coppick reported that CCA guards started noticing black and white prisoners grouping on opposite sides of the recreation yard at around 1:00 p.m. According to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown, the fighting started when about 40 black prisoners, armed with bats, horseshoes and knives, rushed about 15 white prisoners on the prison's recreation yard.
The riot only lasted a few minutes, but when the mayhem was over, Lippert had been beaten and fatally stabbed, and more than a dozen other inmates were seriously injured," according to Payne County District Attorney Rob Hudson. This became an issue between whites and blacks. It's gang-related.
Our ... goal right now is to certainly ask for the death penalty on those that are directly responsible; that are the reasons for the death of Lippert," said Hudson.
Sources: Oklahoma C.U.R.E., The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, Associated Press, www.channeloklahoma.com, Honolulu. Advertiser, endinews.com.
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