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Whistleblowers at New York State Prisons Include Former Guard Shilling Tell-All Book and Former Prisoner Calling Him Out

By Kaden Gicker

Four whistleblowers have come forward since the April 2022 death of a prisoner at New York’s Fishkill Correctional Facility (CF), claiming that guards with the state Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) abuse and even kill prisoners under their watch.

On April 28, 2022, 17 days after prisoner Joseph Clarke died there, state police announced a preliminary determination of his cause of death: Suicide. That left Sandra Murphy, the mother of the 37-year-old father of four, scratching her head. She said he didn’t suffer mental illness and wasn’t on medication. But she added that the last time she saw him, two days before he died, he had bloody facial cuts that he blamed on guards.

“I said why would they want to kill you,” Murphy recalled, adding that Clarke replied, “Ma – you don’t understand. They [are] setting me up.”

One of the whistleblowers is Antoine Jackson, who was formerly incarcerated at the prison. He claims that during his time there he saw guards stab prisoners or even throw them from tiers, sometimes killing them. He also says guards beat him, too.

Another whistleblower is Ingrid Zavata, whose boyfriend is imprisoned at Sing-Sing CF in Ossining, where she says his hand was broken during a guard beat-down. A third whistleblower, Debbie Camacho alleged her husband was beaten unconscious by guards and left in solitary confinement at Clinton CF in Dannemora.

“They escorted him somewhere where there’s no cameras and beat the living life out of my husband,” Camacho said.

The absence of cameras in areas where the prisoners were allegedly assaulted was common to both women’s accusations. DOCCS responded that investigations had been opened into them. The agency also said that Jackson, the former Fishkill prisoner, had filed an abuse complaint in 2003, but it couldn’t verify any of his other recent claims.

Jackson said the only thing holding back additional accusations was that prisoners were afraid to report what had happened to them and risk retaliation by guards and prison officials.

On June 13, 2022, Altice News—via its News 12 Network—reported that a former guard at Fishkill CF was publishing a tell-all book about his experiences working in the troubled prison. Paul Harrington, who retired from DOCCS in 2018 after 20 years as a guard, said his book details abuses he witnessed while working at the facility, including violence between guards, corruption, and drug use. He alleged that he was told by superiors on multiple occasions to revise reports because what he had written did not “set the tone with the other reports.” And he agreed that off-camera locations presented a temptation to guards to abuse.

“There’s a lot of areas where you could do things where it’s not even seen and most those are as even up until today, do not have security cameras,” the former guard said.

Jackson said he recalled Harrington because he was held at Fishkill CF before his release.

“It was absolutely horrible. Horrible,” he insisted. “The worst perpetrator is Paul Harrington.”

Harrington acknowledged recalling the former prisoner, but he denied any involvement with Jackson.

Fishkill CF is one of several DOCCS prisons where guards have been accused of beating prisoners, resulting in lawsuits that cost the agency nearly $2 million annually in payouts. [See: PLN, July 2017, p.12.]  

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