NYT (caught on tape) Prison Brutality at Clinton Correctional: Getting the Story

The New York Times reported on a case where an inmate died at the hands of prison guards; watch the video here:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004085887&playerType=embed

From our earliest visits to Clinton Correctional Facility, we heard stories from inmates about a fellow prisoner they claimed had been murdered. They didn’t have a name for him, or even a year, and the details differed in parts. But the central narrative was always the same: An inmate was pushed down a flight of stairs by guards and then so savagely beaten he died.

At first, we weren’t sure whether these accounts were fact or legend, but weeks later, as we were thumbing through a stack of state reports on prison deaths, there it was, just as we’d been told: an account of Leonard Strickland’s death.

For the next four months, we crisscrossed the state, visiting prisons in search of inmates who witnessed what had happened on Sunday morning, Oct. 3, 2010. We knocked on the doors of officers and civilian prison workers and spent two weeks at a civil trial, listening as the guards involved testified to their version of events. Our work culminated in a Page 1 Times story on Dec. 14.

In the two years we have spent writing about abuses in the prisons and jails of New York, we have documented numerous cases of brutality, neglect and corruption involving correction officers and their supervisors. But the case of Leonard Strickland stood out. For inmates at Clinton Correctional Facility, the death dramatized their worst fears — that they could just disappear one day and no one would come looking.

By the time we came across the case, we had been reporting about Clinton for several months. We began looking at the prison, which is in Dannemora, N.Y., a short distance from the Canadian border, last spring after we finished a series of stories about Rikers Island. Then in June, two murderers escaped, setting off a nationwide manhunt and drawing national attention to the prison. In the aftermath, we reported about the security lapses that aided the breakout and a campaign of brutality against inmates that followed….Most Court of Claims trials are not on the media’s radar and, for the entire two weeks of trial, we were the only two people sitting in the gallery in the Albany courthouse. With our attorney’s guidance, we stood before the judge on the first day of trial and requested the video be unsealed. The judge listened to objections from the state’s attorney — releasing it would be a security risk, plus the contents could be taken out of context, they said — and then ruled in our favor.

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