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Prisoners Stage Sit Down at CCA Run New Mexico Prison

Over 650 prisoners engaged in an apparently spontaneous protest at a Federal prison in New Mexico. On Monday, April 13, 2001, prisoners at the Cibola County Correctional Center congregated in the recreation yard and refused to leave. The assembly began as usual at 7:45 a.m., but at 8:00, when the call-out for work and school began, no one budged. They remained in the yard until 9:30 P.M. when they were forcibly removed. The Cibola facility is one of several federal prisons operated by the Correctional Corporation of America, a private prison conglomerate with facilities worldwide.

A special response team, composed of members from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the New Mexico Sheriff's department, was called to the scene. For 10 minutes, members of the combined task force bombarded unresisting prisoners with tear gas. After subduing them, guards proceeded to handcuff each of the prisoners.

No guards or prisoners were reported injured. Steve Owen, Director of Marketing for CCA, said the prisoners involved were peaceful and nonviolent. Captain Thomas of the State Police said, "The special response team tear gassed inmates because they were not complying with orders to lie down. & All day long they were not complying with anything. ...We finally had to do something," he said.

Neither was director Owen aware of what might have caused the protest. His response is hauntingly familiar. In July 2000, fifteen guards and one prisoner were injured in a CCA run prison in Sayre, Oklahoma. [See: PLN , March 2001] The Sayre riot started over an alleged paper bag being passed between two prisoners. The contents of the bag was never determined and ultimately CCA officials were left scratching their heads, "trying to determine what happened."

Director Owen assured the press that "cooperative inmates" were being interviewed to determine the reason for the protest. "Over the next few days, we will conduct an in-depth incident debriefing and follow up to determine the cause and prevent future incidents," he said. But given the past track record of mainstream media, those causes will most likely remain shrouded in mystery; a disconcerting fact, since of the 818 prisoners incarcerated at Cibola, virtually 80 percent were involved in the protest. If corporate media remains true to form, hundreds of voices at Cibola will never be heard.

Source: Associated Press.

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