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Mock Prison Riot Staged

On April 25 and 26, 1998, there was a weekend-long riot at the old West Virginia State Penitentiary. This wasn't your typical prison riot, though. First of all, it was anything but spontaneous. Rather, the two-day event was meticulously planned, and carried out by prison guards and law enforcement teams from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Other law enforcement types and prison officials from across the United States had received invitations to attend and observe the riot. But no actual prisoners were invited and none participated in the two-day event.

Prisoners are no longer housed at the former state penitentiary at Moundsville, West Virginia, making it the perfect staging ground for the second annual mock prison riot and prison-industrial complex vendor jamboree.

The Office of Law Enforcement Commercialization at Wheeling Jesuit University sponsored this year's mock riot to showcase cutting-edge riot-control technologies from a number of laboratories, inventors, and manufacturers and to train police and prison tactical teams on the proper use of these emerging technologies.

The West Virginia Department of Corrections, the Moundsville Economic Development Council and the National Institute of Justice coordinated this year's riot, along with Wheeling Jesuit University. More than 150 criminal justice students from Wheeling Jesuit, as well as other colleges and universities from West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio were brought in to play the parts of prison inmates and hostages in the several riot and hostage scenarios that were staged over the weekend.

An area was set up for vendors to display and promote products such as stun guns, riot shields and batons, gas grenade launchers, restraint devices and a variety of chemical agents such as mace, pepper spray and tear gas.

Tom Burgoyne, deputy director of the Office of Law Enforcement Commercialization and co-chair of the event, said, "The mock riot is an opportunity for us to bring in many technologies for corrections officials and law enforcement officers to test first hand."

However, critics of the event described it as a two-day torture-device flea market with a three-ring side show.

Corrections Digest

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