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Pepper Spray Uprising in Arkansas

Wrightsville Arkansas, prison farm labor camp, July, 1997. The sweltering daytime temperature tops 100 degrees. It's still more than 80 degrees just after midnight. And then a spark is lit.

A guard at the Arkansas DOC Wrightsville Unit, reportedly acting on a tip, went into one of the 50-man barracks to search a prisoner for drugs. A struggle ensued. When the guard pepper-sprayed the prisoner, other prisoners jumped in. According to an AP report, "The officers escaped, bruised but apparently without serious injury."

Prisoners took control of the building, and an adjacent 50-man barracks, according to DOC PR flack Dina Tyler. She said the prisoners surrendered at 3:30 a.m. after guards in riot gear surrounded and threatened to storm the barracks. All 96 prisoners in the two barracks were then cuffed and taken away for questioning.

According to DOC investigators, only 15 prisoners were instigators. Tyler said that the 500 prisoners in other barracks were not involved and probably slept through the whole thing. PLN has not obtained first-hand reports from prisoners who witnessed the event. The facts reported here are from the "official version" of events, fed by Tyler to the press.

Associated Press

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