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Five prison guards at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary have been charged with felonies for their role in a June inmate assault.
Lieutenant William Graham received the most serious charges, aggravated assault and battery and offering false evidence, for punching a shackled inmate multiple times and not reporting that information in an incident report.
Charges were filed Monday for Graham, as well as four other guards by Pittsburg County District Attorney Chuck Sullivan. Also charged with a felony for offering false evidence and obstructing an officer were Officer Dylan Aragon, Sergeant Michael Boswell, Sergeant Richard Holloway, and Sergeant Stanley Rogers.
The inmate’s assault wasn’t properly investigated until Department of Corrections investigators reviewed surveillance video after the inmate complained of being assaulted.
In the investigator’s affidavit, Graham denied all allegations in a June interview with investigators. It wasn’t until after he was shown the surveillance video that Graham said it looked like he was striking the inmate, but claimed “he did not remember doing so.”
All five officers have been suspended with pay, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said. A request to the Department of Corrections by The Black Wall Street Times to understand why the officers were not fired, especially Graham, instead of suspended with pay was not immediately responded to.
Oklahoma Prisons Dangerous For Inmates
Oklahoma jails and prisons have long faced criticism from community members for their overcrowding, conditions, as well as treatment from guards.
Oklahoma County jail has received some of the most complaints because of the amount of inmates that have ended up dead while in prison custody.
In December 2021, Detention Officer Jesse Kight was fired from the Oklahoma County jail the day after an inmate was discovered hanging in his cell. Protocol for the inmate to be checked on every 30 minutes was not followed.
“Preliminary indications of misconduct in this case may lead to charges against the detention officer,” said Greg Williams, CEO of the Oklahoma County Detention Center. “Staff must and will be held accountable for not following policies and procedures.”
In April 2022, a federal jury in Oklahoma City convicted former Kay County corrections officer supervisor, Matthew Ware, for facilitating White supremacist attacks on two Black inmates.
The jury convicted Matthew Ware, 53, of willfully depriving two pretrial detainees of their right to be free from a corrections officer’s deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm and of willfully depriving a third pretrial detainee of the right to be free from a corrections officer’s use of excessive force.
A 2021 poll revealed that 66% of Oklahomans believe it is important to reduce the number of people in prisons or jails.
“Oklahomans’ support for criminal justice reform is clear and consistent across party lines,” said Chris Wilson, president of WPA Intelligence. “The data show a majority of Oklahomans support reforms that would safely reduce the jail and prison population, save taxpayer dollars, and provide people who have committed nonviolent offenses with the resources and treatment they need to safely reenter their communities.”