HARRISBURG, Pa. — 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," said Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton. "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.
Pennsylvania authorities said lifer Paul Jawon Kendrick, 22, attacked Baserman over the guard's confiscation of a towel Kendrick had used to block the view of his bunk. Kendrick, who was arraigned on assault charges the same day Baserman died, struck him repeatedly in the head, state police said in a charging affidavit.
"The defendant walked over and kicked Baserman in the head, as he was trying to recover from the floor, rendering him completely unresponsive," police alleged. McNaughton said Kendrick was wearing boots.
Authorities said the attack on Baserman, which also injured another guard who came to his aid, was entirely captured on videotape.
State police said Tuesday they were preparing homicide charges against Kendrick and planned to file them when he next appears in court on March 9.
The Pennsylvania prison system has for many years allowed inmates to purchase boots from the commissaries, and some inmates have jobs that require the boots. McNaughton said officials may limit the boots to work sites.
Kendrick is serving a life sentence for killing a man who told participants in a Pittsburgh basketball game he lived in another neighborhood.
Kendrick, who was transferred to another prison after the alleged attack, did not have a defense attorney listed in court records.