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60 inmates brawl at Los Angeles jail; several taken to hospital

LOS ANGELES- Guards at a downtown Los Angeles jail fired rubber pellets and pepper spray to swiftly quell a racially charged brawl involving more than 60 inmates, and several injured prisoners were taken to a hospital, a jail spokesman said.

The altercation between Hispanic and African-American inmates erupted shortly after noon local time in a third-floor recreation area inside Tower One of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail.

Whitmore said corrections officers fired rubber "sting balls" and pepper spray into the fracas, managing to break up the disturbance in one or two minutes.

"This is something that does occur throughout our jail system from time to time," Whitmore said. "People in our jails are under a lot of tension ... and it does regrettably happen."

Whitmore said four of the inmates were taken to a hospital with cuts, bruises and other non-life-threatening injuries.

But Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott told Reuters six patients were transported to the hospital, two in serious condition, though he did not know whether all of them were inmates.

The precise cause of the fight was under investigation, Whitmore said. The Twin Towers facility, one of eight detention centers run by the sheriff's department throughout the county, houses roughly 4,500 inmates, Whitmore said.

The jail system as a whole, the largest in the United States, comprises more than 18,000 prisoners and has long been plagued by overcrowded conditions.