Three inmates were stabbed to death during an attack or fight at an Oklahoma prison and a fourth died of his injuries overnight, an official said Sunday.
The violence erupted at around 4 p.m. Saturday at the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, a community between the state’s two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
A preliminary investigation determined that the stabbings apparently happened in quick succession while the inmates at a medium-security wing of the prison were being let out of their cells into the exercise yard, said Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections. She said investigators were still trying to determine what caused the violence.
“The entire stabbing incident happened over a couple of minutes,” Watkins said. “The 40-minute time frame is what it took to get everybody back in their cells and get the system locked down.”
No prison staff were injured or involved in the attack. None of the prisoners’ names were released because their families had to be notified first, Watkins said.
Three inmates were declared dead on Saturday and the fourth died overnight at a hospital, she said. Watkins said she didn’t have information about the nature of the fourth inmate’s injuries or the injuries of four other prisoners who were treated at the hospital.
One of the treated inmates was later returned to the prison and the other three remained hospitalized in stable condition Sunday, said Steve Owen, a spokesman for Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, which owns and operates the prison.
Owen said the inmate attacks lasted less than two minutes. He didn’t immediately respond to an email Sunday seeking further details.
It is the second major violent outburst in months at the prison.
In June, some 200 to 300 inmates were involved in a brawl there. Eleven prisoners were taken to hospitals after the fight and the facility was placed on lockdown. The fighting occurred among inmates in three separate housing units.
Watkins said that as a precaution, all Oklahoma prisons have been placed on lockdown, which means that inmates are confined to their cells and their movement inside the facility is severely restricted.
She said two separate investigations are underway — one by the Department of Corrections’ inspector general’s office and the other by the company that operates the prison, which houses about 1,600 medium- and maximum-security male inmates.
Oklahoma has the highest rate of prison homicides in the nation, with state inmates killed at a rate more than three times the national average, according to figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The figures reviewed by The Associated Press as part of a months-long investigation earlier this year show that there were 39 homicides at Oklahoma prisons between 2001 and 2012, a rate of 14 per 100,000 inmates. The national average is 4 per 100,000.
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