Oklahoma guards organized offender no rules fights

Friday, January 17, 2014

In a bizarre story out of the plotline in a straight to DVD bin movie, Graham Lee Brewer of The Oklahoman is reporting that offenders at an Oklahoma facility were organized by corrections officers into fights, and that bets were placed on the outcome.

Attorney Louis Bullock has released a cellphone video that shows an officer-organized fight at a halfway house. In it, a man holds what appears to be cash and tells one of the fighters that if he wins he will get paid.

The fight takes place at the Avalon Correctional Center in Tulsa, operated by Oklahoma-based Avalon Corrections Services Inc., and is at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the state Corrections Department’s internal affairs division, Bullock said.

The attorney said he has been speaking to several offenders from the facility who he says were coerced, or in some cases forced, into fights. Bullock said he plans to pursue a civil rights lawsuit against Avalon.

He said he has been told by multiple parties, including one of the offenders depicted in the video, that two officers at the facility were not only present during the fight, but they condoned it.

Bullock alleges that not only did guards facilitate the altercations, the center’s administrator, Donnie Coffman, was involved as well.

“… I have inmates who have reported that they were ordered by Coffman to assault other inmates,” Bullock said, adding that no action was taken by halfway house administrators when inmates complained fights were about to take place.

Coffman said he never encouraged or ordered any type of assault, nor has he seen the video.

“Was I aware of the video? I was told that there was one, but my bosses are dealing with it, but I didn’t know anything about it, and they’re trying to say that I organized fights, and that’s not true,” Coffman said Thursday.

In a letter Tuesday to Avalon, the department demanded the company remove all 212 inmates from the Tulsa facility due to three active investigations.

The video is one of at least two said to exist, and Coffman said one of the two officers alleged to be captured on film has been fired.

Lynn Powell, director of OK-Cure, the state branch of a national organization seeking changes to the criminal justice system, said she has seen a second video of a different fight that clearly shows two officers initiating a fight between offenders.

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