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Larry Nassar Stabbed in Prison Cell; Attack Unrecorded by Surveillance Cameras, Says AP Source

by Lucas Garcia
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Prison Stabbing

A source from The Big Big News has revealed that investigators looking into the recent stabbing of disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar at a federal penitentiary in Florida are facing a significant challenge: there is no video footage of the assault.

Nassar was attacked inside his cell, which happens to be outside the coverage area of the prison’s surveillance cameras. These cameras only capture footage of common areas and corridors, and as a result, the assault was classified as an “unwitnessed event” in prison terminology.

This incident marks the second time that Nassar, the former U.S. women’s gymnastics team doctor, has been assaulted while in federal custody. He is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexually abusing athletes and possessing explicit images of children.

In addition to shedding light on the assault itself, this attack brings attention to persistent issues within the federal Bureau of Prisons. Despite the Biden administration’s promise to address problems within the prison system and prioritize the rehabilitation of inmates, the agency continues to struggle with violence, understaffing, abuse, and misconduct.

Nassar’s stabbing, occurring not long after the suicide of the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski in a North Carolina federal medical center and amid the ongoing aftermath of Jeffrey Epstein’s jail suicide in 2019, underscores the Bureau of Prisons’ inability to ensure the safety of even its highest-profile prisoners.

Daniel Landsman, the deputy director of policy at the criminal justice advocacy group FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums), condemned the violence within federal prisons, stating that incidents like the assault on Larry Nassar are inexcusable and not isolated, as similar occurrences affect incarcerated individuals across the country.

The AP reached out to the Bureau of Prisons for comment on Nassar’s stabbing, as well as the violence, staffing issues, and other problems plaguing its facilities, but received no response. In a statement, the agency acknowledged the altercation involving an inmate at the United States Penitentiary Coleman but refrained from disclosing the individual’s identity for privacy, safety, and security reasons.

According to the unnamed source, Nassar, 59, was attacked in his cell by another inmate wielding a makeshift weapon. Nassar sustained multiple stab wounds to his neck, chest, and back. The two officers responsible for guarding the unit where Nassar was housed were working overtime shifts due to staffing shortages.

It should be noted that the person providing this information does so anonymously, as they are not authorized to discuss the attack or the ongoing investigation publicly.

Nassar had previously been assaulted in May 2018 at a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona, shortly after being placed in the general population. His lawyers attributed the attack to the notoriety of his case and the highly publicized sentencing, during which numerous victims made impassioned statements. The specifics of that attack, including its nature and severity, were not disclosed by Nassar’s legal team.

Typically, cell doors in most federal prison units remain open during the day, allowing prisoners to move freely within the facility. However, surveillance cameras are not positioned to observe the inside of individual cells. It is possible that other cameras captured footage of Nassar’s assailant entering and exiting the cell.

In some federal prison facilities, such as the Manhattan jail where Epstein died, surveillance cameras have been found to malfunction or fail to record altogether. In response, Senator Jon Ossoff, a Democrat from Georgia, introduced legislation in December to compel the Bureau of Prisons to address failing and outdated security systems. However, progress in this area has been slow.

The Bureau of Prisons Director, Colette Peters, has pledged to revamp recruitment and hiring practices and eliminate systemic abuse and corruption within the agency. However, effecting cultural change within the sprawling organization, which employs over 30,000 individuals, houses 158,000 inmates, and operates with an annual budget of approximately $8 billion, has proven to be a formidable task. Correctional workers claim that no substantial reforms have been implemented to address longstanding staffing issues that jeopardize the lives of both inmates and staff.

Just prior to Nassar’s stabbing, employees at the Florida prison complex where the incident occurred staged a protest outside a nearby supermarket to draw attention to the perilous staffing levels they face. They warned that if the problem is not addressed, someone—whether a staff member or an inmate—will inevitably lose their life.

Records obtained by the AP reveal that nearly 25% of correctional officer positions at Nassar’s prison, known as USP Coleman II, are currently vacant. According to staffing guidelines, the facility, which houses over 1,200 prisoners, should have 222 correctional officers. However, only 169 positions are currently filled.

On the day of Nassar’s stabbing, there were 44 unassigned and vacant posts at the prison, as indicated by the records. One of the officers assigned to Nassar’s unit had been working a third consecutive 16-hour shift, while the other officer was on a second straight day of mandated overtime.

Previous investigations by the AP have exposed widespread criminal behavior among employees, instances of sexual abuse, inmate escapes, and staffing shortages that impede emergency responses.

Last August, Colette Peters, known for her reformist approach and her prior leadership of Oregon’s state prison system, was appointed by the Justice Department to replace former Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal. Carvajal, a holdover from the Trump administration, had clashed with Congress, denied any issues with staffing, and even required a subpoena to attend one of his final oversight hearings.

Peters has been striving to shift the Bureau of Prisons away from its purely punitive orientation, emphasizing the need to create good neighbors rather than just good inmates. She has revised the agency’s mission statement to highlight the employees’ responsibility to foster a humane and secure environment that ensures public safety by preparing incarcerated individuals for successful reintegration into society.


This report includes contributions from Big Big News reporter Alanna Durkin Richer.


The Big Big News is supported by the Public Welfare Foundation, which funds reporting focused on criminal justice. The AP retains sole responsibility for all content.


For updates, follow Michael Sisak at http://twitter.com/mikesisak and Michael Balsamo at http://twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1. If you have any confidential tips, please visit https://www.ap.org/tips/.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about prison safety

Q: Why wasn’t the assault on Larry Nassar captured on surveillance cameras?

A: The assault on Larry Nassar occurred inside his prison cell, which is outside the coverage area of the surveillance cameras. These cameras only record common areas and corridors, leaving individual cells unmonitored.

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2 comments

Bookworm101 July 12, 2023 - 1:14 pm

It’s so scary that even high-profile prisoners like Larry Nassar aren’t safe in federal prisons. The system is clearly broken and needs urgent reform.

Reply
SportsFan4Life July 12, 2023 - 8:10 pm

larry nassar deserves every bit of pain he gets!! but seriously, prisons need to step up their game. cameras not working? come on!

Reply

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