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18 Stabbings in Less Than Nine Months at Oklahoma CoreCivic Prison

by Keith Sanders

Violence occurs inside America’s prisons every day. But those held or working inside Oklahoma’s Davis Correctional Facility (DCF) have endured an unprecedented amount of bloodletting at the lockup, which is operated by Tennessee-based private prison giant CoreCivic: Between New Years and mid-September 2022, at least 18 people were stabbed, leaving three dead, including a guard.

According to Hughes County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) data, an unnamed 29-year-old prisoner died after being stabbed in the neck on March 24, 2022. Another unnamed prisoner, who was 35, was fatally stabbed in the stomach on May 31, 2022. On July 31, 2022, guard Alan Jay Hershberger, 61, was killed with a homemade weapon by prisoner Gregory Thompson, 49. Hershberger was the first guard killed on duty at a state prison since 2000.

Bobby Cleveland, who now helms Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, the union for state prison guards, blames CoreCivic’s persistent failure to fully staff the prison. Pointing to a weekly report from the state Department of Corrections (DOC), the former GOP state legislator said the private lockup is “locked down constantly because they don’t have enough staff.”

DOC faces system-wide staffing shortages. State prisons are “regularly staffed below 50% of the recommended level,” according to an operational assessment by the state Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency. At DCF, a 2021 audit found about 70% of contractually required positions were filled at the 1,600-bed prison. CoreCivic is paid between $50 and $63 per day for each prisoner held at the Holdenville facility.

A company spokesperson promised that CoreCivic was working diligently to increase staffing levels. Nevertheless, conditions at Davis remain dire. It got so bad for former guard Jamie Sasnett that he resigned, undone by the stress of watching 120 prisoners or more all by himself. His superiors allegedly ignored his repeated warnings that prisoners were making weapons. Fashioned of plastic and metal, one was recovered that “was almost 12 inches long,” said Hughes County EMS Supervisor Christopher Miller. He wondered:

“How are you walking around with a 12-inch shank and not getting caught?” 

Source: Oklahoma Watch

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