BURGIN, Ky. — Four prisoners remained hospitalized and hundreds of others had to be relocated Saturday after rioting inmates set their central Kentucky prison on fire.
Flames shot into the air during the melee Friday night, seriously damaging several buildings, and parts of the medium-security Northpoint Training Center continued to smolder nearly 24 hours later.
The 500 inmates who remained at the prison 30 miles south of Lexington were being compliant, said Jennifer Brislin, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
About 700 others were being taken to other facilities across the state. In some cases that meant inmates were double-bunking or sleeping in gyms or other secure buildings inside prisons.
Staff, inmates injured
Officials would not say what caused the rioting, which injured eight staff members and eight prisoners. None of the injured staffers were hospitalized, said Cheryl Million, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Authorities would not provide conditions for the inmates still being treated.
Those who remained at Northpoint were getting food and medical care from temporary stations because the fire destroyed six buildings, including a kitchen, medical center, canteen and visitation area. They were to be moved into a 196-bed dormitory that remained habitable, as well as a unit of single cells.
The disturbance started Friday evening when prisoners set fire to trash cans and other items inside and outside the prison. All fires were contained by 4 p.m. EDT Saturday, Brislin said.
Officers in riot gear had rushed in with tear gas about 9 p.m. Friday, and all the inmates were subdued within two hours, authorities said.
Gov. Steve Beshear praised corrections officials and state police for handling the situation without any serious injuries.
"Their work last night in the face of the most trying circumstances was truly remarkable," Beshear said in a statement Saturday.
Local and state police formed a perimeter around the outside of the facility to make sure no one escaped.
Prison spokeswoman Mendolyn Cochran had told The Advocate-Messenger of Danville the facility had been on lockdown since Tuesday, when a group of inmates assaulted two others.
Million would only say that some inmates had access to matches because smoking is allowed in parts of the prison.
The union representing employees at the prison — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Kentucky — said in a release Saturday that the disturbance could have been worse.
The union said the prison lacked essential equipment such as working radios and flexible handcuffs.
The melee came two weeks after more than 1,000 inmates rioted at the California Institution for Men in Southern California. The prison was designed to hold about half as many inmates, although investigators say they don't know if crowding helped spark the racially charged riot.
Northpoint had more than 1,100 general population inmates housed in six open-bay dormitories, according to its Web site. Another 60 special management inmates were housed in single cells in a separate structure, and 40 minimum-security inmates in another separate structure.
It opened in 1983 and has a staff of 285.
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