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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

“It's a lot of information to look at — 2,700 pages is a lot,” Smith said.

“My biggest murder case was something like 500 pages, if that tells you anything.”

In addition to California prisoners, Machak said inmates from Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Vermont have been housed at the prison over the past 12 years.

Lawsuit offers

look inside

A lawsuit filed in federal court by a California inmate being housed at the North Fork Correctional Facility could shed some light on what happened during the October riot.

Melvin Fisher filed the lawsuit against the prison's warden, a guard and a California prison system administrator, court documents show.

According to the lawsuit, Fisher, who is black, is claiming that the warden of the prison didn't afford him adequate protection by allowing large groups of Sureno gang members to populate the prison.

The inmate claims these Hispanic gang members are “troublemakers” and outnumber blacks five to one at North Fork.

Fisher claims he broke his nose during the Oct. 11 riot when he and three other black inmates were attacked in a gym by dozens of Sureno gang members.

Fisher said the guard named in the lawsuit held the door leading out of the gym closed with her foot, causing him to run into it and break his nose.

“We started yelling through the door for her to let us out,” Fisher wrote in the lawsuit.

“Finally, she let the door go after the response team instructed her to do so and come to their safety net.”

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation administrator also is named in the lawsuit because she allowed “Northern Mexicans” to be transferred out of North Fork and be replaced by Sureno gang members.

“They both knew that by increasing the numbers of Sureno Mexicans, (it) would give them power over other races of inmates,” Fisher wrote. “They both knew that it was an excessive risk of a riot happening.” has disabled the comments for this article.
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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