Frequent Gang Violence, Lockdowns at OK Private Prison

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A massive brawl involving 24 members of the Savage Boys and Sureños gangs broke out at Oklahoma’s privately operated Lawton Correctional Facility in April, reports The Frontier. The Sureños, a small but powerful gang, instigated the fight, says an Oklahoma Department of Corrections report. The altercation began when a Sureño approached a Savage Boy and punched him in the face. Nine prisoners were injured, including six who were treated at a hospital. Joe Allbaugh, former director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said the two Latino gangs were fighting to control contraband and money inside and outside the prison. “What’s happening out there is just ugly,” said Allbaugh, who resigned in June. “There’s no other way to describe it. Each time I bring it up, people see dollar signs. They don’t want to hear about money issues.”

The Oklahoma prison system has about 100 identified gangs. Many gang members are sent to Lawton Correctional Facility because of its high level of security. Gang members sometimes threaten to attack their enemies inside the Lawton prison unless family members deposit money on their inmate trust accounts, effectively demanding ransom in exchange for not hurting their loved ones, Allbaugh said. With 2,682 beds, the sprawling Lawton Correctional Facility is the largest of Oklahoma’s three state-contracted private prisons. It is operated by the Florida-based Geo Group Inc. Geo has a contract worth about $40 million a year to house Lawton prisoners. The prison is frequently on lockdown and has had problems maintaining adequate staffing. On June 29, a group of prisoners attacked two other prisoners inside their cells. The inmates were treated at a hospital for stab wounds. On June 27, six prisoners were involved in a fight involving crude and improvised weapons including “mops and sharpened things,” said the corrections department’s Matt Elliott.

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