Prison riot leaves one dead, others injured

Published 1:20am Monday, May 21, 2012

Mayfield said throughout the day and evening a number of law enforcement agencies worked to remove ACCC employees from the facility. At one point, the agencies opened an outer fence to allow approximately 15 employees to exit the prison while law officers aimed guns at the opening to cover the employees and prevent inmates from escaping. Two of the employees let out in the group of 15 had non-life-threatening injuries. The others were unharmed.

Mayfield estimated between 200 and 300 inmates of the more than 2,000 at the facility participated in what a press release by CCA called an “inmate disturbance.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene during the nearly nine hour riot.

Agencies responding to the situation included the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s special operations team, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, CCA’s trained Special Operations Response Team from Adams County and other CCA prisons, Wildlife and Fisheries, the Mississippi Department of Transportation Mississippi Highway Patrol SWAT team and possibly others.

After dark, inmates lit what Mayfield described as a campfire at the front portion of the facility off of U.S. 84 with wood and other available materials.

At one point, the agencies used pepper spray to control the crowd, Mayfield said.

The inmates causing the problem were not armed with traditional weapons.

“Just things like wood and things like that — trash can lids,” Mayfield said.

He said inmates used anything they could find such as mop handles or fragments of bunks or bleachers they pulled apart.

“There were around 300 inmates (participating); so there was no way to tell if it was organized,” Mayfield said.

Inmates don’t have access to weapons because guards do not carry them, “and that’s the reason why,” Mayfield said.

CCA officials said in a press release the company will investigate the cause of the incident.

Adams County Correctional Facility houses low-security prisoners, most of who are illegal immigrants who committed offenses in the United States and will be returned to their country of origin after completing their sentences. It is a 2,567-bed facility.

Mayfield said he did not know how the riot initially started but that it was attributed to internal power struggle among the inmates involving hierarchies within the inmate population and grew from there.

But an inmate reportedly called a Jackson TV station at approximately 5 p.m. Sunday said the riot was due to mistreatment of inmates, WAPT reporter Meg Pace said.

The TV station published the following quote from the phone call.

“They always beat us and hit us. We just pay them back … We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”

Pace said she asked the inmate to confirm his identity by sending her photos from inside the prison from the cell phone he had used to contact her.

The photos showed law enforcement outside the gates, but were clearly taken from inside the prison, she said.

The inmate said the phone was his, one he’d had for sometime inside the prison, Pace said.

The inmate also reportedly told Pace that nine guards were tied up and three had been injured. Mayfield said he never saw anyone tied up, but he can’t be sure what went on inside the housing area.

Mayfield, who coughed when he spoke about the incident at one point and attributed it to residual pepper spray, said the experience was frustrating.

“We were in a position where could see employees (through the fence), but there was nothing we could do about it,” he said.

He said his office’s main focus was monitoring and protecting the perimeter of the prison, and he didn’t envy the decisions Laughlin had to make about what happened inside.

“I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when all of that was going on,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said the process was slow, but it had to be slow in order to ensure the safety of everyone as much as possible.

Mayfield said he hated that someone lost a life during the incident, but he considers it a miracle more lives weren’t lost.

“The scary part was being afraid for the employees,” Mayfield said.