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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, addressing allegations of medieval beatings in the state prison system, said Friday that correction officers, who work a tough job, "have to make sure they get a certain amount of respect in the job, otherwise they get hurt."
Investigators are probing claims by inmates in at least two state prisons that officers exacted unnecessary beatings, including one by a "Beat Up Squad" that left a prisoner dead and is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors.
Asked whether the state prison system has a brutality problem, Cuomo said, at an unrelated event at Ground Zero, "Well, state prisons have brutal people in them. So, unless you call that a brutality problem, no. State prisons are very difficult to manage, state prisons are filled with very dangerous people.
"They are policed by a relatively small number of correction officials -- who are unarmed, I might add. It is a very, very difficult job. They have to make sure they get a certain amount of respect in the job, otherwise they get hurt. So, I think they're doing a good job.
"To the extent there is an incident that has to be looked into, then we look into that incident. But you're managing dozens of facilities with tens of thousands of people, don't take one or two alleged incidents -- and they're only alleged -- ...and then take a broad brush and make a general statement."
Inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility charge that after two murderers staged a daring escape earlier this year, guards exacted days of retribution by brutalizing other prisoners and violently interrogating them about what they knew, or didn't know.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is involved in a separate probe at the Fishkill Correctional Facility of the death of a bipolar prisoner, allegedly at the hands of as many as 20 guards who were said to have punched, kicked, and threw or dragged a black inmate down the stairs while shouting racial slurs.
The labor union representing the officers has urged against a rush to judgement, "rather than simply relying on allegations made by a handful of violent convicted felons," according to The New York Times.