Preet Bharara to join probe into Fishkill inmate homicide

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has announced that federal prosecutors will join an existing probe into the reported homicide of a Fishkill Correctional Facility inmate.  Source :  Progress Queens/Photo Illustration

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has announced that federal prosecutors will join an existing probe into the reported homicide of a Fishkill Correctional Facility inmate.  Source :  Progress Queens/Photo Illustration

By LOUIS FLORES

Preet Bharara, the nation's top federal prosecutor in New York's southern district, will join a probe launched by District Attorney William Grady (R-Dutchess County) into the death of an inmate at the state prison known as the Fishkill Correctional Facility.

"My Office has been in communication with the office of Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady, and we will be coordinating and working with his office to investigate the April 21, 2015 death of Samuel Harrell, an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility," U.S. Attorney Bharara said, in a statement issued by his press office.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, which U.S. Attorney Bharara heads, includes Dutchess County in its district.

Mr. Harrell died from injuries following a confrontation with over 20 correctional officers, according to a report published by The New York Times.  The medical examiner for Orange County conducted an autopsy of Mr. Harrell's body, ruling his manner of death as a homicide, according to The New York Times report.

Inmates at Fishkill have reported instances of what could be a pattern of retaliation and violence "after speaking with Mr. Harrell’s family, their lawyers and with news reporters," The New York Times report added.

That report followed a bombshell report, also published by The New York Times, revealing that state correctional officials engaged in retaliation and violence against inmates at another state prison, known as the Clinton Correctional Facility.  It was from Clinton where two other inmates, Richard Matt and David Sweat, successfully staged a daring, if short-lived, escape that embarrassed state corrections officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York).  According to the bombshell report in The New York Times, state correctional officials were apparently willing to use violence and threats of torture to extract information from the fellow inmates of the escapees to collect information about their plans and possible whereabouts.

A request for comment made by Progress Queens to the press office of U.S. Attorney Bharara, inquiring as to whether the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district will similarly join and/or launch its own independent probe into the reports of violations of inmates' rights at Clinton was not immediately answered.  If any new information is provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office, that information will appear in a new report.

The involvement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district to probe complaints about possible violations of inmates' rights at the state's correctional facility at Fishkill follows a remarkable investigation by the same federal prosecutor's office into inmate conditions at the municipal jail complex on Rikers Island, one of the largest jails in the world.  In 2014, U.S. Attorney Bharara's office produced a shocking report, documenting a pattern and practise of violations of inmates' rights, particularly for underaged inmates.  After the de Blasio administration could not address the report's findings fast enough, U.S. Attorney Bharara's office joined a lawsuit against New York City to reach a framework of a settlement to pave the way for reforms at the notorious municipal jail complex.  

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