Last year, at Ulster Correctional Facility in New York, prison guard Michael Bukowski got in an altercation with then-20-year-old inmate Ramon Fabian during a prison head count, according to the New York Times and the Marshall Project.
It did not end well for Fabian.
Bukowski was conducting a morning head count at the medium-security prison when he noticed that Fabian was speaking to another inmate. Inmates are supposed to stand in place and speak low during the head count. Fabian had arrived at the facility only a few days prior to serve a one-year sentence for a drug conviction.
After the head count, guards escorted Fabian to an area out of view of security cameras, ordered him to spread his legs, and Bukowski kicked hard between his legs.
Unable to get up, he lay on the floor moaning. Shortly after, he was taken to an Albany, New York hospital, where doctors removed part of his right testicle.
In July of 2014, corrections officials determined that Bukowski had not only used excessive force but lied about it afterwards. Despite the determination, a union intervention prevented his firing.
The case was brought to an arbitrator, a procedure deemed a right by the union contract, whose decision is binding. The arbitrator upheld the conclusion that Bukowski had used excessive force and lied, but deemed the appropriate punishment to be 120 days of unpaid suspension rather than firing, seeing as this was Bukowski’s first offense.
The arbitrator’s decision did not satisfy corrections officials, who refused to allow Bukowski to return to his post. The union sued, but the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the 120 day suspension had not been appropriate and the judge ordered that the case be reheard. The union is appealing the court’s decision.
Disciplinary action for corrections officers remains a point of contention between corrections officials and the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association. Of 30 attempts by corrections officials to fire guards since 2010, only 8 succeeded.
Misdemeanor assault charges filed over the same incident are still pending, though a conviction would not necessarily guarantee Bukowski’s continued employment in corrections.