NEWPORT NEWS, VA - Professional American football player Michael Vick sustained serious lacerations, some of which appear to be teeth marks, a dislocated shoulder and two broken ribs in a heavily promoted prison fight earlier this week. Officials have begun a full investigation into charges the Leavenworth, KS prison is complicit in maintaining a pit style fighting ring where inmates square off in bloody battle, engaging in "prisoner baiting" activities, and even gambling on the outcome of such fights.
Witnesses, who have asked not to be identified, described "The Pit" as a tight circle of prisoners crowding around two inmates chosen to fight that day in a predetermined location. Though the fights are generally stopped short of death because of the harsh penalties subsequently given to the winner, they can nevertheless be quite brutal. Sources say Vick, fighting under the name "Ron Mexico," was badly mauled by a larger inmate in just such a brawl.
Though prison officials have denied any knowledge of "The Pit," a number of other incidents would seem to indicate they know more than they claim. Thirty-seven times in the last year alone, inmates have been hospitalized with similar injuries and bite marks, some with remnants of duct tape over their mouths and around their wrists. Duct tape is commonly used in "prisoner baiting," a cruel practice which involves a generally smaller inmate suitably restrained with tape to prevent more serious injuries to another contender in training.
Gambling charges involving the warden and several of the security guards will also be investigated. Sources outside the prison have long suspected foul play, wondering how workers at a Federal prison in Kansas could afford such lavish mansions, luxury cars, vacations to the Bahamas and extravagant cocktail parties. Preliminary investigations have indicated the gambling ring reaches far outside the Leavenworth prison, with perhaps tens of millions of dollars changing hands for each staged event.
The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Humans has called the practice of pitting prisoners against one another "cruel, inhumane, and downright barbaric." A spokesman said, "We consider these fights to be one of the most serious forms of prisoner abuse today, not only for the violence that the inmates endure during and after the fights, but because of the suffering they often face in training. It's horrible. They treat these people like dogs."
According to the SPCH, the prevailing idea is that the more brutality an inmate endures, the more aggressive and effective a fighter he will become. They also claim that prisoners who fail to perform up to expectations are often subjected to tortures such as being deprived of food at mealtime, beaten with bars of soap in socks while asleep, forced to run on a treadmill for hours at a time, and in at least one instance, castration has been reported.
None of the prisoners are talking, including Vick himself, who is currently convalescing in his cell. Confronted with television cameras in his office, the warden stepped in front of a large blood stain on the wall while buttoning his jacket over another on his shirt, saying, "Though I can assure you there has been no wrongdoing on my part, we will do whatever is necessary to get to the bottom of this."