Report: Staff failure to secure doors led to prison unrest

November 1, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A June uprising at the El Dorado Correctional Facility began after prison staff didn’t properly secure doors, allowing up to 70 inmates to leave their cellhouse and ignore commands to return, according to an internal review released Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Corrections.

That disturbance led to a five-day lockdown at the prison, about 30 minutes northeast of Wichita. When it was lifted, more unrest developed when some inmates refused to return to their cells because they were unhappy with new shower schedules, Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood told a legislative committee, The Wichita Eagle reported .

The disturbances were among several at Kansas prisons this summer. Norwood told the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight that inmates also caused about $80,000 in property damage in a September riot at Norton Correctional Facility in northwestern Kansas.

In response to complaints of understaffing and a high turnover among corrections officers, Gov. Sam Brownback raised the pay of corrections officers in August. Norwood said turnover of uniformed corrections staff continues to be problem.

The El Dorado report’s conclusions and recommendations were redacted from the public report and Norwood didn’t take questions from reporters.

A review of camera footage of the first El Dorado incident, on June 24, indicated staff in L cellhouse didn’t properly secure several doors, including the main exit door from the building, the review said.

When inmates began returning to their cellhouse, they placed objects into door jambs to prevent them from being secured and made mop and broom handles into weapons. They then covered their faces to prevent identification and set a fire in a laundry cart, which filled a hallway with smoke. One inmate broke into an office and stole items, the report said.

One officer suffered smoke inhalation.

The two cellhouses involved in the uprising were on lockdown until June 29. When the lockdown was lifted, between 100 and 200 inmates refused to return to their cells because they were unhappy with new shower schedules. The inmates were peaceful until an inmate broke into an office and took office and security equipment and gave them to other inmates, the report says, prompting the warden to declare an emergency.

A fight that broke out in the yard began as battery on the inmate responsible for the damage to the offices because the inmates who had organized the protest wanted a peaceful demonstration, the report said.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com