NEW YORK — New York state police are investigating the death of a prisoner who had a confrontation with a group of correctional officers known as the “Beat Up Squad,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The death of Samuel Harrell, a 30-year-old who suffered from bipolar disorder, is an example of what inmates describe as a pattern of brutality by guards at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, the New York Times said.
Fishkill, a medium security prison in Beacon, about 65 miles north of New York City, has been criticized by prisoner advocates as a violent place for inmates.
The advocacy group Correctional Association of New York documented abusive behavior by correctional officers towards inmates at the prison in two reports released in 2005 and 2013.
Harrell, who was serving time for a drug conviction, got into a confrontation with officers on April 21, the day of his death, after announcing that he was going home despite having years left on his sentence, the Times reported.
He was beaten by as many as 20 officers, some belonging to a group called the “Beat Up Squad,” and either thrown or dragged down a staircase, the Times reported, citing multiple interviews with inmate witnesses.
Correctional officers called an ambulance but did not tell the medics about the physical altercation and instead said Harrell likely overdosed on synthetic marijuana, the Times reported.
Harrell was pronounced dead that night at a nearby hospital.
An autopsy by the Orange County medical examiner ruled Harrell’s death a homicide, the Times reported. Illicit drugs were not found in his system.
State corrections officials declined to provide many details about the incident, citing an ongoing investigation by New York State Police, the Times reported.
Following the incident, several inmate witnesses say they have been punished with solitary confinement or threats of violence for speaking with Harrell’s family, attorneys and others, the Times reported.
No prison officers tied to the incident have been disciplined, it said.