Residents react to prison riot

Published 12:07 am Thursday, May 24, 2012

NATCHEZ — Angry. Ambivalent. Initially worried but now calm.

Those are all reactions residents of the community surrounding the Adams County Correctional Center had to the riot at the prison Sunday.

During the riot, prisoners took guards hostage, and one correctional officer, 24-year-old Catlin Carithers, was killed. The incident lasted from approximately 2:40 to 11:30 p.m.

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Hobo Forks Road runs behind the prison and has no outlet, and resident Jennifer Foley said she wasn’t allowed out while the incident was ongoing. And the riot has changed how she felt about the prison.

“(Law enforcement officers) just told me to go home and lock my doors,” she said. “I felt like they could have come on down here and said, ‘Something is going on, and you can either stay or evacuate,’ that would have been the right thing. We’re just down here in these houses that aren’t that hard to get into.”

Jennifer’s mother, Geneva Foley, lives a little further up the road with three grandchildren and a blind adult cousin. She’s lived there for more than 30 years and she, too, said her perspective has changed.

That’s in part, she said, because no one notified residents of the situation.

“Before this, I felt safer knowing that (the prison) was up there, until they didn’t tell us anything,” Geneva Foley said. “I would like for them to tell us, so we can get out and go somewhere safe.”

“I had a bunch of friends and family who were calling and saying, ‘Come stay with us,’ and I had to say, ‘I can’t get out.’”

Since Sunday, Geneva Foley said she’s had a heightened sense of the prison’s presence.

“Now, I look out there and see if (the prisoners) are out,” she said.

Down the road, the closest resident to the prison is George Whitley. Though he said he hopes an incident like the riot Sunday doesn’t happen again, his opinon of the prison hasn’t changed.

“I haven’t got a problem with them,” he said. “Does it make me nervous? No.”

“They stay in their place, and I stay in my place.”

Across the highway from the prison, Margaret Chance said she and her neighbors stayed together and sat up under the porch, waiting to know what would happen, while the situation was still volatile. After her grandson called her and told her that the riot had settled down, she went to bed.

“I have not given it a thought except of the guard who died,” she said. “That was the saddest thing.”

Marie Arnold said that many mornings she can hear the inmates out in the recreation yard.

“It sounds like they are having a good time,” she said.

The riot shocked her, she said, but the prison has not bothered her since it was built and populated.

Arnold had a little trouble sleeping Sunday night, she said, and some of the sounds she overheard were unnerving.

“The scariest thing was when they started shooting the tear gas, and it sounded like gunshots, and you could hear people screaming,” she said.

By Monday, however, Arnold said she had calmed down and returned to her default attitude toward the correctional facility.

“They have to have prisons somewhere,” she said.