NEW CASTLE, Ind. — Indiana officials suspended plans to accept hundreds more inmates from Arizona after a two-hour riot at a state prison run by a private company.
Authorities were investigating whether Tuesday’s two-hour fracas, involving about 500 inmates, started because some newly arrived prisoners from Arizona were upset about their treatment at the medium-security men’s prison.
The riot, during which two staff members and seven prisoners suffered minor injuries, involved inmates from both states. No one escaped from the New Castle Correctional Facility, officials said.
Prison guard Larry Savage said he, two other guards and three maintenance workers barricaded themselves in a room as dozens of inmates tried to break in before a prison response team arrived about 15 minutes later.
"They were wrapped up in masks, with sticks, knives, shanks," Savage said of the inmates. "They were just flexing their muscles and they wanted to show that they could take the prison over at any time, and that's what they did."
Inmates set fire to mattresses and paper in the courtyard, destroyed furniture and windows and armed themselves with clubs before the prison was secured, officials said.
Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner J. David Donahue said the riot began after a group of inmates from Arizona disobeyed orders and took off their shirts in the prison's recreation area to show staff they wouldn't comply with orders.
The disturbance came six weeks after the first of some 600 Arizona inmates began joining 1,050 Indiana prisoners at the facility, about 45 miles east of Indianapolis.
Donahue said he has delayed the transfer of 600 more inmates from Arizona until authorities can reassess the condition of the prison.
"This system is different than what they are accustomed to," Donahue said.
Some of the newly arrived inmates had complained about a lack of recreation and other programs, said Trina Randall, a spokeswoman for GEO Group Inc., the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that in January 2006 took over the prison's management.
Arizona Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katie Decker said at least some of the transferred inmates had complained about being moved, which was prompted by the state's shortage of prison space.
The injured staff members suffered cuts and scrapes, while the injuries to inmates involved tear gas exposure and minor cuts. All seven inmates were treated at the prison, Randall said.
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