Sayre prison riot yields 2,700-page report; charges are likely coming

An October riot at a private prison in Sayre that left dozens of inmates injured has yielded a 2,700-page report and could lead to several new felony cases being filed in Beckham County.
by Andrew Knittle Published: May 4, 2012
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— An October riot at a private prison in Sayre that left dozens of inmates injured has yielded a 2,700-page report and could lead to several new felony cases being filed in Beckham County.

Mike Machak, a spokesman for the private North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, said 19 inmates involved in the Oct. 11 riot could face “attempted murder” charges, although such a crime doesn't exist in Oklahoma.

The riot, which is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, left 46 prisoners injured.

Sixteen of those were injured badly enough to be taken to local hospitals. Three prisoners were in critical condition, prison officials said shortly after the melee.

Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs North Fork, is based in Tennessee and has prisons sprinkled across the country.

In a prepared statement to The Oklahoman, Machak said that “violence between security threat groups is a challenge for every prison system,” although he didn't answer questions about which prison gangs were involved in the riot.

All of the prisoners housed at North Fork are from California, which began transferring inmates out of state in 2007 to ease overcrowding.

Dennis Smith, district attorney for Beckham County, said he has an experienced prosecutor analyzing the massive report submitted by the prison company but hesitated to confirm that 19 inmates would be charged with serious violent felonies related to the riot.

He said the prosecutor also has spent considerable time viewing video footage of the riot during the course of the lengthy investigation.

“First of all, we don't even have ‘attempted murder' in Oklahoma ... we have similar charges but not ‘attempted murder' like his statement says,” Smith said. “I believe that charges will be filed, but we have to go through each one and make sure they can be prosecuted.”

Smith, who is the district attorney for five counties in western Oklahoma, said his offices are short-staffed and he didn't know when charges would be filed.


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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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