Prison Inmate Syvinski Seeks Protection Against 'Jailhouse Justice'
An Anchorage man accused of attacking a young girl is seeking protection from fellow inmates.
It’s known as jailhouse justice or vigilantism, but it begs the question as to whether certain inmates are being protected behind bars more than others.
As part of the unofficial code of conduct among prisoners, Byron Syvinski said he was beaten because of allegations against him for assaulting 7-year-old Am-Marie Martin earlier this summer.
“The decision to release him to the general population was frightening,” said Jeffery Robinson, Syvinski’s attorney. Robinson said his client was severely beaten and sustained two black eyes. “There are members of the alleged victim’s family in the general population that Mr. Syvinski was released to…he was beaten quite immediately and quite severely.”
Andrea Dunwoody, Am-Marie’s mother, said that while Syvinski has rights, he should be held accountable for what he is accused of doing to her daughter.
“My daughter couldn't fight back so someone else is doing it for her, I guess.”
Dunwoody said she doesn’t “have that much sympathy for him” because she has to “look at my daughter's permanent black eye every day.”
Robinson insists that inmates should not have to fear for their own safety while in a secure facility.
“We live in a civilized society. We don't believe in vigilante justice. We believe that Mr. Syvinski is part of society at large, that he is part of the community. He demands and deserves the protection of law just as all members of the community do,” he said.
Age, previous criminal history and the nature of the crime against the individual are all taken into consideration when an inmate requests protection from fellow inmates, according to Richard Schmitz, communications special assistant for the Department of Corrections.
“Individuals that are a danger to society are put in jail, and individuals in jail who are in danger to other prisoners are put in segregation. If a new crime was committed, for example, then the troopers will be contacted and there will be an investigation and an arrest,” he explained.
Department of Corrections officials would not comment on the Syvinski case specifically as the attack in jail is still under investigation. They would also not talk about the unofficial code of conduct in prisons but did say that violent assaults are infrequent.