Oklahoma prisons on lockdown after four inmates die in private prison

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Oklahoma's entire prison system has been in lockdown since a fight at a private prison on Saturday left four inmates dead.

The four inmates were stabbed in a fight at the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing that lasted just minutes and hospitalized four more, according to prison officials.

During a lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells 24 hours a day, with no activities or visitors, the Oklahoman reported. That means that almost all of the state's 26,000 inmates haven't left their cells in more than three days.


Cimarron is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the U.S. Private prisons house about 6,000 of inmates in Oklahoma; CCA houses 70,000 inmates nationwide.

The prison has had a record of violence this summer. In June, 200 to 300 inmates were involved in a brawl that sent 11 people to the hospital. In August, a high-ranking gang member at the prison was stabbed to death, according to an internal report obtained by The Associated Press.

Some have called for the state to reform its private prison policies. "These are just holding pens for human beings. They're terrible and they should be stopped," State Rep. Richard Morrissette told the AP. "Making a profit over someone else's misery is inherently wrong, but it's not going to stop because look how much control and influence they have."

But officials pushed back. "To suggest this incident had anything to do with the facility being privately operated is pure politics," CCA spokesperson Jonathan Burns responded. "No corrections system—public or private—is immune to disturbances. Responsibility lies with the inmates who instigated and participated in this disturbance."


Oklahoma has the highest prison homicide rate of any state in the country, according to an investigation by the AP, with 14 killings per 100,000 inmates.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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