- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A knife fight that broke out among inmates in a crowded housing unit at a southeastern Oklahoma prison left one inmate dead and three others wounded, prison officials said Thursday.

The fight started about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Mack Alford Correctional Center near Stringtown and involved at least four inmates using homemade knives, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Alex Gerszewski.

Gregory Smith, 29, suffered stab wounds in the attack and died at a hospital in nearby Coalgate, the DOC said in a news release. Three other inmates were treated for cuts and stab wounds, including one who underwent surgery at McAlester Regional Hospital after he was stabbed in the stomach. Two other inmates were treated for stabs and cuts and returned to the prison, DOC reported.

“The correctional officers who were at the facility and at the unit at the time broke it up and were able to stop it,” Gerszewski said.

No prison workers were injured in the melee, and the cause of the fight was under investigation.

“We have launched a full-scale investigation into the situation and will continue to search for motives that led to this incident,” Oklahoma’s new DOC Director Joe Allbaugh said in a statement.

The facility was on lockdown Thursday, and weekend visitation was canceled.

The prison is rated to house 864 inmates, but has 923 because of systemwide overcrowding, the agency said. The fight broke out in a day room that had been converted to an open dormitory-style housing unit for 52 inmates.

The homicide is the first reported inside an Oklahoma prison this year, Gerszewski said, but figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show Oklahoma has had one of the nation’s highest prison homicide rates in recent years. Figures reviewed by The Associated Press last year show 39 homicides at Oklahoma prisons between 2001 and 2012, a rate more than three times the national average.

In September 2015, four inmates were stabbed to death at a private prison in Cushing in a fight that left three other inmates wounded.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy


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