FBI report: Prison riot was gang-driven

Published 12:06am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NATCHEZ — Two different narratives about the Adams County Correctional Center prison riot in late May — that it was gang violence and that it was planned by disgruntled inmates — merged together as new details about the disturbance were revealed in court documents filed late last week.

The ACCC is a federal immigration prison, and in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, FBI Agent Casey Markovitz stated that a group of Mexican nationals known as Paisas controls the most power and influence within the ACCC inmate population. It was a day after a shake-up in the leadership of Paisas that the riot tore through the facility, causing an estimated $1,305,142 in damage.

The former gang leaders were ousted because members felt their interests were not being represented, the affidavit says, and were replaced by two inmates, Ernesto Granados and Juan Arredondo, on May 19.

The new gang leadership — along with a large group of inmates — planned to take a list of grievances to prison authorities May 20. The new gang leadership told Paisas to disobey correctional officials and stay outside their housing units until their grievances were addressed.

The grievances were with “what the inmates perceived to be inadequate or substandard food, medical conditions and disrespectful staff members at ACCC,” the affidavit said.

The alleged plan also included compiling a list of three correctional officers the inmates wanted ousted from the prison as part of their demands.

The riot — which lasted from approximately 2 to 9 p.m. and resulted in the death of 24-year-old correctional officer Catlin Carithers — began after correctional officers noticed something was wrong and began shutting down internal gates within the facility. According to the affidavit, members of Paisas were trying to escort their ousted leaders to a special housing unit to be segregated from the general population.

When some of the gates were closed, Arredondo and Granados and approximately 200 other members of Paisas approached one of the gates, demanding to speak with Warden Vance Laughlin.

After being ordered by correctional officers and over the prison’s public announcement system to return to their housing units, the affidavit states the inmates began kicking and tearing at the gates, and correctional officers began to deploy tear gas.

Inmates were able to tear through a fence and steal a 32-foot ladder, which they used to access a roof and attack two correctional officers, who were then taken hostage. Other inmates stacked food service carts to climb onto the roof of another building, where they found Carithers and another correctional officer, Deborah Temple. Both were attacked, with Carithers sustaining a blunt trauma to the head that ultimately claimed his life.

The inmates ultimately ransacked the prison kitchen, took guards hostage and used guard keys to access other parts of the prison. They also tried to free members of Pasias — and possibly attack enemies — who were being detained in the special housing unit, the affidavit states.

During the riot, one inmate, Juan Lopez-Fuentes, apparently demonstrated that he was in charge of the inmates, sometimes quieting them and other times telling a hostage correctional officer to relay demands to riot responders, the affidavit says.

The prison’s Special Operations Response Team, aided by the Mississippi Highway Patrol, was eventually able to take back control of the facility with the use of rubber bullets and tear gas.

The affidavit states that Lopez-Fuentes acknowledged to FBI investigators that he was part of the riot.

The affidavit ends with the note that Lopez-Fuentes was scheduled to be released from prison last Thursday and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin the deportation process. The affidavit was filed last Wednesday. Calls to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jackson about the timing of the filing were not returned Monday.

An ACCC spokeswoman said late Monday afternoon she would try address questions submitted to her, but as of press time, a response to several submitted questions had not been received.

In July, Laughlin said prison officials believed that during the course of the riot, between 500 and 700 prison’s 2,550 inmates participated in the disturbance. A number of inmates were removed from the facility following the riot, but the prison was rebuilding its population, Laughin said.

Since then, the prison has modified how it will allow prisoners to move through the facility, and prison officials were able to identify structural weaknesses that allowed rioters to access areas they should not have gained, Laughlin said at the time.

The warden also said in July he could look anybody in the eye and say that inmates were not mistreated.

The independent American Correctional Association accredits ACCC, and in a 2010 audit, the facility scored a rating of 99.5 percent. ACA accreditation is conducted every three years.

ACCC is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house the prisoners.

  • Anonymous

    Would someone please explain how the prison population got to 2550.  IIRC, wasn’t the limit as told to the county 1200?  Perhaps the ND can follow up on this question.  Remember, the county has much responsibility in case of an escape. 

  • Anonymous

    The prison is full of illegal aliens that Odumbdumb won’t let ICE deport. He needs the votes.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    This bunch better get their act together for things of this nature should never happen!!

  • Anonymous

    Would somebody send these immigrants back to their own country and let their own country deal with them!! They are not mistreated when they are watching flat screen tv’s, getting an education and playing ball on nice courtyards. Our public schools dont have half the stuff they have….but they are in prison!! Not to mention healthcare….they get more healthcare and dental care than the actual citizens of this country that have insurance. Maybe we all should go to prison!! And to top it off, transferring of inmates does not substantiate the death of Carithers, he was a good guy!!

  • Anonymous

    Would it be cheaper to send these illegal aliens back from where they came?  To punish them before deportation do not guarantee they will not return.  Keeping them in jail is very expensive.  This policy in my opinion is just a waste of our tax dollars. I can see lock them up for hard core crimes like murder.  But lock them up just because they came back after deportation will not stop the illegal immigration problem.

  • Anonymous

    I love your comments.  The policy of locking up these prisons is very expensive. There is a lot of waste in the criminal justice system.  We have prisons setting on death row for ten, twenty and thirty years.  They are in and out of the courtrooms with no solutions to their case.   This is a colossal waste of our tax dollars in the name of justice.

  • Anonymous

    I vote for giving them the option to have the same conditions they would be afforded in their home country if they don’t like ours.

  • Anonymous

    YOU GOT THAT RIGHT TWO DIFFERENT NARRATIVES: “THE FBI NARRATIVE” AND “THE ADAMS COUNTY NARRATIVE”. THIS ARTICLE WAS PRINTED FOR “ONE” REASON ONLY. *TO CONFUSE THE READERS*. NATCHEZ ADAMS COUNTY DON’T WANT TO ACCEPT THE FBI NARRATIVE. FBI: INMATES UPSET OVER *TREATMENT*. NAC: SHERIFF CHUCK MAYFIELD, A FIGHT BETWEEN GANG MEMERS STARTED THE RIOT. THIS IS ONE DUMB ARTICLE. THE FBI REPORT DON’T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE ADAMS COUNTY HELP, ONLY CONCORDIA PARIS. THE WARDEN: “CAN-LOOK-ANYONE-IN-THE-EYES-AND-SAY-THAT-INMATES-WERE-NOT-MISTREATED. HE CAN LOOK THE ND IN THE  EYES AND SAY THAT, BUT NOT IN MINES. IF THAT WARDEN REMAINES THERE, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER RIOT. ONE OF INMATES MAIN REASONS FOR A RIOT IS TO TRY AN ELIMINATE THOSE THAT’S BEEN MISTREATING THEM. DON’T EXPECT NO MORE OR LESS OUT OF ANY PRISON THAN THE PERSON THAT’S IN CHARGE.   

  • Anonymous

    DO THEY REALIZE THAT THEY ARE INCARCERATED… They are in a cadillac jail.  Some of their prisons are made of plain cinder block.
    Just shut up and think about what you did to get yourself in this situation in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Silly Mexicans have it better in the Federal Lockup than they do back in the land of hot tomales…One  thing they do understand–Brute Force…I  mean—aren’t they inmates that are locked up because  they have committed felonies ?

    It  will be interesting to see who pays the ultimate price for the murder of the prison guard—and caused so much pain to his family…

veteran