The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 25, 2011

Penitentiary tries to curb inmate fights


The warden said that in almost every case, prison staff can find workable pairs of cellmates. "Corrections judgment" indicates that an inmate who insists he cannot live with any other inmate is trying to manipulate prison officials to get a solitary cell, the warden said.

In Richardson's lawsuit, the inmate claims that he and his first cellmate got along for the eight months they shared quarters. On Feb. 3, Richardson was paired with a new inmate, known as "the Prophet."

He alleges "the Prophet" has assaulted about 20 other inmates, including some at Lewisburg, and he refused to bunk with him.

Richardson said that when he refused to share a cell with that inmate, he was placed in restraints for 28 days.

Bledsoe said that restraints are only used in Lewisburg when inmates threaten violence. When an inmate is in restraints, corrections officers and medical staff must provide stepped-up monitoring. As a result, the prison staff will not use restraints unless there is a good reason. However, once an inmate is placed in restraints, they are not removed until staff members are convinced the inmate's threat of violence is over.

"We have cases where inmates will say, 'If you remove these restraints, I'm going to kill you,' " Bledsoe said, so the restraints remain. There is no set limit for how long restraints may remain in place, he said.

Inside the penitentiary, common areas include architectural touches uncommon in most modern correction facilities. There are gothic arches and decorative metalwork in the administrative office area.

The floor of the common area leading to the dining hall is covered in red tile. The dining hall features soaring ceilings and looks more like a university dining room than the cafeteria in a penitentiary.

It bustles with activity at lunch time, but the space that once accommodated more than 1,000 inmates at meals now only serves 200 or so because 80 percent of the facility's inmates eat in their cells. The only inmates who eat in the dining hall are the general population inmates who remain to cook meals and clean the facility.

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