Gang violence puts Oklahoma prisons on lock-down

Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-18 12:56:42-04

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is investigating coordinated gang-related violence at six prisons.

The investigations have yielded numerous seizures of contraband cellphones, weapons and drugs.

The fights, which began Saturday, took place at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center Lawton Correctional Facility, North Fork Correctional Center, Dick Conner Correctional Center, Mack Alford Correctional Center and William S. Key Correctional Center.

The fights led to 36 inmates transported to hospitals for treatment, eight of whom were still hospitalized Tuesday morning, and injured several correctional officers. One inmate at Dick Conner Correctional Center died. ODOC staff have identified him as Chad Burns, 27, who was serving a 15-year sentence out of Tulsa County for convictions including first-degree burglary, robbery, firearms possession and assault with a dangerous weapon.

ODOC officials say the violence appears to be related to a dispute between two prison gangs, as well as racial tensions.

Every prison in the state is on lock-down status. ODOC says the lockdown has stopped the violence from spreading, while the agency continues to investigate.

As of Tuesday, prisons will remain locked down indefinitely. They will remain so until ODOC leadership, its Inspector General, Office of Fugitive Apprehension and Investigations agents, and Security Threats Intelligence staff have determined normal operations may resume.

“Locking down the entire state was a decision we made to keep inmates and our staff safe,” Interim-Director Scott Crow said. “We were faced with a dangerous situation that was rapidly spreading across the state.

“This is in no way intended to penalize the thousands of state inmates who did not participate in this violence. We thank their families for continuing to be patient with us as we get to the bottom of what happened and bring those responsible to justice. As soon as we believe it is safe to return to normal operations, we will do so efficiently and safely.”

While inmates are locked down, they are kept in their cells. Facility staff bring them food, water and medicine, and provide access to showers.

All visitation is canceled until further notice.