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Fayette County prison may see escalation in violence

Rich Cholodofsky
| Saturday, June 10, 2006

A brawl and stabbing last month at the state prison in Fayette County might be an indication of more trouble to come.

An official with the union that represents guards at the State Correctional Institution in Luzerne Township said that a routine search this week turned up nine homemade weapons, sharpened from metal, hidden around the prison exercise yard.

"The inmates are obviously gearing up for something," said Don McNany, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association. "Nine shanks in the yard is kind of unheard of. It is a red flag that something is brewing.

"Fayette County is going to be the institution where something major happens," he said.

Sue McNaughton, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, confirmed Tuesday that items were seized at the 2-year-old prison, but described them as "old weapons" and "pieces of metal left over from construction."

"Officials assured me that nothing major was found and that's it's not uncommon to continue to find things over time after a new prison opens. That's why searches of the various prison areas, including yards, are important and are conducted on a regular basis," McNaughton said.

Union officials have been critical of administrators at the Fayette prison since outbreaks of violence at the facility last month.

The first was a yard fight involving about a dozen inmates, three of whom were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

As a result of that fight, the prison was locked down, and a search turned up homemade weapons and other contraband.

Three days earlier, two guards were stabbed by an inmate who used a shank. One guard was wounded in the left shoulder; the other suffered wounds on his neck and arm. Both were treated at The Uniontown Hospital.

So far, no criminal charges against the inmates have resulted from either incident.

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