KINGMAN, Arizona: About 700 inmates at an Arizona prison were being moved to new locations Friday after disturbances on consecutive days left their housing units uninhabitable.
Nine corrections officers suffered minor injuries in the incidents at the privately run Arizona State Prison-Kingman, which has had a long history of problems. No inmate injuries were reported.
The first disturbance occurred Wednesday at a minimum-security unit, followed by what he described as an unrelated riot Thursday night at a medium-security unit that took several hours to quell, Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said.
The agency said the riot caused severe property damage to two housing units, but did not elaborate on what it entailed. The prison remained on lockdown Friday as authorities investigate.
The prison holds about 3,500 minimum- and medium-security inmates and is operated by Centerville, Utah-based Management and Training Corp. The injured officers work for the company, which also operates prisons in seven other states.
In Wednesday’s incident, a small group of minimum security inmates were chasing down an inmate when prison staff intervened to stop the assault, Wilder said. The inmates assaulted the officers, and six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.
Most of the inmates complied with staff’s orders to return to housing, but some did not and it took a couple of hours to get the prisoners back to their housing units, Wilder said.
Thursday’s incident involved many more inmates and turned into a full-blown riot involving an unknown number of inmates, he said. It took many hours for prison staff and Department of Corrections officers to bring the situation under control, and the prison wasn’t secured until early Friday morning, Wilder said. Three guards were hurt, authorities said.
“Importantly, the perimeter of the prison was never breached — local law enforcement and DPS provided assistance in manning the security perimeter while corrections personnel dealt with the situation in the housing units,” Wilder said.
Management and Training Corp. spokesman Issa Arnita said in a statement that the second incident began after an inmate became aggressive with an officer for an unknown reason. The disturbance grew and eventually involved two of the five housing units, Arnita said.
Corrections Director Charles Ryan arrived at the facility early Friday morning and remained there into the evening, Wilder said.
In 2010, three inmates escaped from the prison after a woman in a getaway car threw cutting tools over the fence and they broke out. The inmates went on a violent crime spree that included the murders of an Oklahoma couple during a camping trip in New Mexico. They were killed, and their bodies were found burnt in their trailer. The inmates were caught, tried and received new prison sentences.
Management and Training Corp. continued to operate the prison despite scathing criticism of its lax security during the escape.
An inmate at the prison — and the minimum-security unit where the disturbance happened this week — was sexually assaulted and beaten at the facility in January and died at a hospital three days later, according to a legal claim filed by his family. The legal action says emergency responders weren’t notified for nearly two hours.
The inmate, Neil Early, was serving a five-year sentence for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia after becoming addicted to heroin and stealing video games.
Arizona houses thousands of inmates in private prisons, and the industry has come under fire for its large donations to Republican politicians.