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New Mexico CCA Disturbance Not Reported for Hours

The warden of a private prison in New Mexico said that prison staff may have delayed notifying state police about a disturbance that sent five guards to a hospital August 7, 1998.

"It may be my fault we didn't respond quickly enough," said Donald A. Dorsey, warden of the Torrance County Detention Center, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Darren White, head of the state police, was critical of the delay in calling state police. "We're a little disappointed that our (public information officer) was first informed of any situation at the prison by a local media person," White said. "Until then, we were unaware of the situation."

Details of the "situation" are sketchy. Prison officials said only that some unarmed prisoners from Washington D.C. jumped the guards while being returned from a recreation area. Officials said the attack was unprovoked.

Apparently CCA officials did contact the New Mexico Corrections Department, which dispatched a 15-man tactical team to the CCA prison. But White said that his department should have been notified so that state police could have been dispatched to secure the prison's perimeter.

"The down time it takes to bring in additional resources for something like a prison disturbance could be dangerous,'' warned White. "We'd like some assurances that this won't happen again."

Just two weeks before, another CCA prison had been sharply criticized by Youngstown, Ohio, officials for failing to report an escape [See: PLN Vol. 9, No. 11, pg.6] In that incident, six Washington D.C. prisoners cut a hole through two fences, triggering perimeter alarms at 1:06 p.m. But it was two hours before local law officials first learned of the escape when a 911 call was placed by an anonymous person from one of the prison's pay phones.

Lubback Avalanche-Journal, Corrections Digest

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