Subscribe

400 Inmates Fight: Prison Watchdog Groups Speak Out

Reasons behind prison riots

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 4, 2013 Last Updated: March 4, 2013
Related articles: United States » National News
Print E-mail to a friend Give feedback

A fight involving 400 inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tuscon on Sunday night left 17 prisoners and two staff members injured. Prisoners’ rights advocates spoke out against some conditions in Arizona prisons before the incident, but the reasons behind the brawl are still unclear. 

A file photo of a correctional facility in Phoenix, Arizona in 1999. A fight took place involving 400 inmates in a minimum security unit at an Arizona prison in Tuscon on Sunday. (Mike Fiala/AFP/Getty Images)

A file photo of a correctional facility in Phoenix, Arizona in 1999. A fight took place involving 400 inmates in a minimum security unit at an Arizona prison in Tuscon on Sunday. (Mike Fiala/AFP/Getty Images)

A fight involving 400 inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tuscon on Sunday night left 17 prisoners and two staff members injured. 

The reasons behind the brawl are still unclear and an investigation is underway. 

Peggy Plews, a blogger on “Arizona Prison Watch,” was puzzled by the riot, which took place in the minimum security Whetstone Unit of the prison.

“It troubles me this happened on a minimum security yard—the politics aren’t supposed to be so bad there,” wrote Plews. “I hardly ever get distress letters from guys fleeing the violence or racism on that yard.”

She called on the public fill her in on any news from inmates in that unit. 

I hardly ever get distress letters from guys fleeing the violence or racism on that yard.

On Friday, Feb. 22, Channel 12 News KPNX in Phoenix, Arizona, reported on a video that recently surfaced showing the death of Arizona State Prison inmate Tony Lester. The video, allegedly suppressed by the state corrections department for two years, shows Lester bleeding to death from self-inflicted wounds as guards stand by and fail to provide assistance, according to local publication the Tuscon Citizen. 

Former Arizona Department of Corrections Warden Carl Toersbijns is now an outspoken advocate for prisoners’ rights. 

In a letter to Arizona House minority leader Chad Campbell published Friday, March 1, Toersbijns wrote of Lester’s case: “This is why Arizona prisons will soon fail and explode into a revolution that will result in personal harm or death, destruction of state property, and jeopardize the safety of all those communities wherein these prisons are located.”

Historically, overcrowding has been a factor in causing prison riots. That does not seem to be the case in the Arizona prison: According to statistics on the prison’s website, the Tuscon facility has beds for 5,150 inmates, and a current population of 5,034 inmates.

In a 2008 paper titled, “Collective Behavior and the Factors That Cause Prison Riots,” Julie Kristen Pate of Maryville College noted that prison riots happen when prisoners “feel that the benefits of rioting outweigh the consequences.”

Following the 1971 riot at Attica Correctional Facility in New York, prisoner conditions temporarily worsened, but then significantly improved. Governor Nelson Rockefeller allocated an additional $12 million for the Department of Correctional Services to upgrade state prisons six months after the riot. 

Personnel training improved, as did general living conditions at the prison. 

Similar improvements followed the 1980 riot at the New Mexico State Penitentiary and the 2002 riot at Folsom Prison in California.

The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.



  • http://twitter.com/carltoersbijns Carl Toersbijns

    The public, the press and politicians misunderstand the word “overcrowded” and fail to grasp the concept when the prison population exceeds the staff’s ability to control its movements, e.g.the ratio of staff vs inmate has been diminished that results in an excessive body count of prisoners versus staff’s ability to supervise them properly.. Its not always about bed space but rather the dynamics that run a yard e..g. competence of admin, security staffing patterns, inmate programs ,idleness, drugs, gangs, violence and many more factors we all knnow exist and that can spark a riot.,. Wait till the CCTV goes out and see what happens.. Don’t be so guillible to think its about numbers….= its about the ability to manage the population and keep safe and secure environment for all

  • http://twitter.com/carltoersbijns Carl Toersbijns

    In other words – overcrowded = outnumbered and being outnumbered gives the criminal the upper hand to do at will whatever is their agenda until sufficient resources can be gathered to quell the problem or intervene and restore order – the danger is the staff is at risk when out of control and those inmates choosing not to be involved suffer from the mass reaction with the sufficient force used to put any disturbance down.. This is the cause and effect cycle in all reality..and jeopardizes public safety at its fullest.


   

GET THE FREE DAILY E-NEWSLETTER


Selected Topics from The Epoch Times

Joey Daoud