SCI-Somerset

SCI-Somerset is shown on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

A corrections officer and inmate were both killed in 2018, while other officers were assaulted in separate incidents throughout a year of mayhem at SCI-Somerset.

And one of the deaths prompted state officials to ban the footwear used to fatally injure the guard – heavy duty work boots – and replace the prison’s superintendent over the summer.

Over the past 12 months:

• One inmate, inmate William Amos Cramer, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, was charged with assaulting a corrections officer who was transporting him to Somerset Hospital for treatment.

• Inmate Dale Wakefield was charged with killing cellmate Joshua Perry inside the lockup.

• Sgt. Mark Baserman died in February after he and a fellow corrections officer were assaulted inside the prison by an inmate wearing

Timberland boots. His alleged attacker, Paul Kendrick of Pittsburgh, was transferred to another prison, where he awaits trial on homicide charges.

• Another inmate, Canie Griffith, 30, received an additional 35 months to 10 years behind bars for assaulting another corrections officer with a padlock in May.

Making changes

Following that string of violent incidents, state Department of Corrections officials transferred Superintendent Melissa Hainsworth to SCI-Laurel Highlands in July, replacing her with Eric Tice, who until that point, headed SCI-Smithfield.

Department of Corrections officials said officials recognized the move was needed following Baserman’s death. But they insisted Hainsworth was not to blame.

“What we’ve learned from previous major incidents is that a facility doesn’t really begin to fully heal until there is a change in leadership,” Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.

“We have complete faith in these leaders and are making these moves in order to allow SCI-Somerset to continue the healing process.”

Violent incidents inside the prison have slowed in the months since.

A ban on Timberland boots, which were previously available for commissary purchase, has remained in effect since, despite a legal challenge earlier this year.

The state Commonwealth Court tossed the Fayette County inmate’s filing in October, saying “for safety and security reasons” the agency has broad discretion to amend its policies regarding personal inmate property.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.