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Four Oklahoma State Penitentiary Staff Fired After Smoke Kills Prisoner

Four employees of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (0SP) were fired and two resigned after a prisoner died of smoke inhalation while guards ignored smoke billowing from his cell and a sabotaged smoke alarm system failed to alert anyone to the danger.

No one knows why OSP prisoner Julius Parker, 26, set fire to his mattress at around 1:30 p.m. on July 28, 2012. Parker had been convicted of armed robbery and other lesser charges, but was being housed in OSP's H Unit, a maximum-security wing that houses, among other prisoners, those awaiting execution. No one can ask Parker because, over an hour after guards first noticed smoke coming from his cell, his near-lifeless body was removed from the cell by first responders who tried, but failed to revive him.

An investigation into Parker's death revealed that a guard reported smoke coming from Parker's cell to security supervisor Larry Jiles at about 1:50 p.m. Instead of taking action, Jiles ended his shift and left the prison without telling anyone about the smoke.

Jiles reportedly told investigators that he didn't take it seriously "because inmates build fires to heat up coffee all the time. I didn't think it was that severe."

Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said that the officers who noticed the smoke "did not realize the magnitude of the situation. When officers reported the situation to supervisors, the officers again did not convey the seriousness of the situation--which delayed the response to the offender's cell."

When Parker was finally removed from his cell following a 2:45

p.m. welfare check, he was placed on a gurney in restraints and taken to the prison's medical unit. There, nurses started CPR. Then an ambulance took him to a McAlester hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Jiles, guard David Willis, guard manager Beatrice Glover and saftey consultant Jerry Hunt were fired in relation to the incident. Hunt was fired because investigation revealed that the fire alarm system had been tampered with and rendered inoperable on June 24, 2012 and Hunt had been writing that he was performing routine checks of the system when he had not. Hunt had performed no inspections or safety checks of the fire alarm system from January through July 2012, yet filled out the paperwork as if he was performing them.

DOC Deputy Director David Parker and OSP Warden Randall Workman noted numerous inaccuracies in record keeping and policy violations which contributed to Parker's death. Workman issued a memo changing policies to emphasize fire safety two days after Parker's death. Unfortunately, none of this can help Parker who died because guards were annoyed by false fire alarms and turned the system off and were too lazy to investigate his cell when smoke came billowing from it.

Sources: Tulsa World,

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