How a ‘Blue Wall’ Inside N.Y. State Prisons Protects Abusive Guards

BEACON, N.Y. — The way the prison guards described it in their paperwork, there was a minor disturbance the day they took Chad Stanbro to a dental clinic at a regional hospital.

Mr. Stanbro, a prisoner, had been sedated but became agitated during surgery, took a swing at a dentist and kicked a correctional officer in the stomach, they wrote. The guard and a colleague had quickly restrained him and had driven him back to Fishkill Correctional Facility, where, according to the senior officer’s account, Mr. Stanbro had “reported no injuries.”

But critical details were missing — including that Mr. Stanbro had been paralyzed during the incident. A third officer had rushed into the clinic’s operating room and had knelt on Mr. Stanbro’s neck until he couldn’t move, according to later court testimony. That guard had asked his colleagues to leave him out of their reports, they acknowledged at trial, and they had done so.

Even though Mr. Stanbro’s injuries were obvious — he…

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This article was written by Joseph Neff, Alysia Santo and Tom Meagher and originally published on