Prison boot sales halted after guard killed
HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania prison official said Tuesday the sale of work boots at all prison commissaries was halted because an inmate is accused of killing a guard by knocking him to the floor and kicking him in the head with a boot.
The prison guards’ union wants to ban work boots in prisons outright following the Feb. 15 beating of Sgt. Mark Baserman, who died of his injuries Monday.
The Corrections Department said it imposed the sales ban after employees at Somerset State Prison, where Baserman was attacked, raised the safety issue of boots last week in a meeting with administrators.
All prison system facilities were notified, including postings in inmate housing units, commissary windows and all inmate common areas. The department has not taken away boots inmates already own.
“They’re trying to figure out where to go from this point,” Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton said. “Certainly the hard-soled shoes have been an issue.”
Safety issues regarding inmates with boots have arisen in other states. A California inmate was sentenced to life last month for stomping to death his cellmate, shattering his skull with work boots. A federal appeals panel in 2012, writing about an inmate-on-inmate assault in which one was badly hurt by a steel-toed boot, said they were mystified why a federal prison in Illinois required inmates to wear the boots, even in their cells.
New Jersey prison officials said that for the past decade inmates have been allowed to wear work boots only when they are working outside, in the kitchen or on a maintenance crew, and the boots must be taken off when they are not on the job.
McNaughton said a check with other state prison officials indicated some do not allow boots, some limit them to work crews or inmates living outside restricted housing, some do not allow boots with metal toes and some permit them and have had no problems.