Fork fight raises issue of metal utensils in prisons

Should metal eating utensils be banned in New York’s prisons? That’s what the guards’ union is saying after two inmates of a Malone prison stabbed each other with forks over breakfast last week.

The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association said the altercation took place around 7:25 a.m. March 9 at Franklin Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison. One inmate stood up and stabbed the other inmate in the head with a metal fork, and the injured inmate retaliated by punching the other in the face and stabbing him in the left wrist with another metal fork, according to NYSCOPBA.

The union said the inmates ignored prison staff’s orders to stop fighting, so officers intervened and got both inmates in body holds and into restraints. The inmates were then taken to the facility infirmary and transferred to a local hospital. Both were treated for puncture wounds and returned to the facility. They face disciplinary measures.

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision did not dispute NYSCOPBA’s account of the fight. The superintendent of Franklin Correctional said he was not authorized to speak on the matter and referred media to DOCCS’ press office in Albany.

“Ensuring the safety of individuals at our facilities is this department’s highest priority,” DOCCS Director of Public Information Thomas Mailey said in a statement. “There is zero tolerance for violence within the facilities, and anyone engaged in misconduct will be disciplined within the facility, and if warranted, the incident will be referred for outside prosecution.”

Some New York prisons issue metal eating utensils while others don’t. John Roberts, NYSCOPBA’s northern region vice president, said the union has told the Franklin prison superintendent multiple times it is concerned about him letting inmates use metal forks.

“As inmate-on-staff assaults and inmate-on-inmate assaults continue to be a serious safety issue and danger, the superintendent blatantly disregarded our concerns, not to mention the safety of our officers and other inmates incarcerated at the facility,” Roberts said in a press release. “There is simply no reason that inmates need to be issued metal utensils that can be utilized as a weapon when there are safer options available.”

Franklin Correctional Facility is one of three state prisons in Malone, which is also home to the Franklin County Jail.