National News

3 inmates hurt after disturbance at Arkansas prison

Posted 4:22 p.m. Friday
Updated 4:24 p.m. Friday

— Three inmates were injured after a disturbance at an Arkansas prison that included prisoners breaking windows and damaging surveillance equipment, officials said Friday, the latest in a recent series of incidents at corrections facilities that have prompted investigations by state police.

The Arkansas Department of Correction said an undetermined number of inmates late Thursday night broke windows and damaged surveillance equipment during the disturbance at the Cummins Unit in Grady, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. A state police spokesman said the inmates broke windows using mops and brooms.

Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said correctional officers regained control of the situation after about two hours. Graves says no employees were injured, but the three inmates were taken to hospitals with swelling and bruising to the face and head. They returned to the facility on Friday.

The disturbance is being investigated separately by the department and state police, adding to a growing list of incidents being reviewed by both agencies. They include two disturbances at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker. In one of the incidents last month, three corrections officers were held hostage for three hours by several inmates who had taken keys and a Taser. In a July 22 incident at the same prison, a guard fired three warning shots into the air after an inmate and two guards were attacked. They are also investigating the death last month of an inmate from an assault in July at a separate facility.

Graves said the inmates in Thursday's disturbance were restricted to the area in and around their barracks, and no other part of the prison was compromised. Graves said the department has not identified any type of weapon used in the disturbance. Forty-six inmates are assigned to the barracks where the disturbance at Cummins occurred.

A state lawmaker who co-chairs a committee overseeing prisons said she believes the Legislature needs to take a closer look at what's behind the recent disturbances.

"This is starting to seem like there are systemic issues we need to address," Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott said. "It does seem unusual that we would have this many incidents one on top of another without there being some systemic weaknesses."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he disciplinary action will be taken against employees at the Maximum Security Unit after the incidents, but has said he still has confidence in Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley. Hutchinson again expressed confidence in Kelley.

"Our department of corrections team led by Director Kelley does an excellent job under very difficult circumstances both responding to and controlling any acts of violence in a system that houses almost 16,000 convicted felons," he said in a statement.

Cummins is one of four prisons where lawmakers recently approved raising hazard pay, a move that was aimed at filling vacancies at the facilities. Sixty-seven of the prison's 420 security positions were vacant as of Aug. 31, Graves said.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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