Corrections Corporation of America officials fired the warden and chief of security at the Torrence County (New Mexico) Detention Facility just three weeks after a November 11, 2000 prisoner uprising involving 32 District of Columbia prisoners who reportedly used a sixinch shank, mop handles, toilet bowl scrubbers and table legs to injure eight CCA guards.
The uprising began at around 12:30 a.m. after prisoners refused to go to their cells for the night. State police Lt. Pete Kassetas said there was some kind of disagreement between prisoners and guards, but wouldn't be more specific about what sparked the disturbance.
"There were 32 different inmates in the pod," Kassetas told the Albuquerque Journal, "there are probably 32 different reasons why they rioted."
Prison officials pumped tear gas into the pod through pipes in the ceiling. The melee was not quelled until 2:40 a.m., said Ellen Hawks, assistant warden.
Seven guards were transported to University of New Mexico and Presbyterian hospitals. Five suffered stab wounds. Two were initially listed as critical but after surgery were listed in satisfactory condition. Another guard was treated at the scene by prison medical personnel. No prisoners were injured, say state police.
CCA opened the Torrence County prison in December 1990 as a 268bed rentajail for housing federal prisoners. The facility was expanded to 900 beds in 1997, but held only 397 prisoners when the November uprising took place.
The incident occurred in pod 5C of the west wing of the facility, where all of the prison's 183 District of Columbia prisoners are housed. In addition to the DC prisoners, the prison held 147 U.S. Marshal's prisoners, 36 Torrence County and 31 Lincoln County jail detainees.
This was not the first time the Torrence prison has had problems. In 1999 a fight during a softball game left five prisoners and two guards injured. In 1998, several prisoners were killed or injured. One was fatally stabbed in November 1998. In August of that year, a knife fight between black and Hispanic prisoners left five prisoners and two guards injured. Eight days before that, prisoners arriving from Washington D.C. attacked and injured five guards. A prisoner suffered severe head injuries in a September 1998 beating. And on October 20, 2000, two prisoners tried to escape by climbing over as many as seven of the prison's 15 foot fences before being detected and recaptured.
The November uprising reinforced fears of people living in the nearby town of Estancia. Restaurant owner Bob Lutrick said the town "needs a siren to alert us when there are problems out there."
"I think it's horrible," said Betty Boltz, a video storeowner, "I think the prison should be run by the state."
Sources: Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login