After death of SCI-Somerset guard, state bans boot sales in prison commissaries
As a result of the death of a corrections officer at SCI-Somerset this month after he was punched and kicked by an inmate who was wearing work boots, the state Department of Corrections has suspended the sale of such boots in prison commissaries.
Susan McNaughton, communications director at the corrections department, said officials decided to ban the boots last week after a meeting at the Somerset prison involving state officials and employees in the wake of the Feb. 15 beating of two corrections officers.
One guard, Mark Baserman, 60, of Johnstown, died of his injuries Feb. 26 at Conemaugh Memorial Hospital in Johnstown after he was punched and kicked in the head eight to 10 times.
“(Banning boots) was among the issues raised during that meeting with employees and staff in Somerset, and our administrators felt we should go ahead and suspend the sales in the commissaries,” McNaughton said.
Baserman's death resulted in a call from the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association to ban inmates from wearing heavy boots while incarcerated. President Jason Bloom said Paul Jawon Kendrick, formerly of Pittsburgh, was wearing Timberland boots when he assaulted the officers.
“This officer is a hero who gave his life to protect Pennsylvania from its most violent criminals,” Bloom said in a statement. “His senseless death is a tragedy that must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Inmates must know that any attacks on an officer will lead to swift and certain punishment.”
“We call on the Department of Corrections to permanently ban Timberland and other similar boots that led to this officer's most serious injuries. These boots are being used as weapons and must be removed immediately,” Bloom said.
McNaughton said that while some work details require inmates to wear work boots, prisoners will have to change out of the boots when they leave the work site. Soft-soled shower slippers, sandals and sneakers are still sold in the commissaries, according to an online inventory of items.
State police in Somerset said Tuesday they will amend criminal complaints filed against Kendrick, 22, to include criminal homicide at his next court appearance March 9 at the Somerset County Courthouse.
Trooper Jordan Shaulis said Kendrick was arraigned Monday on two felony counts each of assault by prisoner, aggravated assault and simple assault before Baserman's death on Feb. 15.
Shaulis said Kendrick was angry because Baserman had confiscated a towel he used to keep anyone from seeing into his cell and attacked the guard. A second corrections officer tried to intervene. Kendrick is accused of hitting him in the face several times, knocking him out, according to Shaulis. He also is charged with aggravated assault and related criminal offenses in that case.
Kendrick is serving a life sentence for a 2014 Pittsburgh murder. Also known as “Peanut,” he was convicted of shooting and killing 21-year-old Maurice Freeman, who was playing basketball in Northview Heights in August 2014.
Kendrick has been moved to SCI-Huntingdon, according to online court documents.
Under a new policy at Westmoreland County Prison, officials will confiscate all inmates' personal footwear in an effort to stop drug smuggling. Inmates will be given rubber, slip-on shoes. The policy takes effect Wednesday.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.