Spat Over TV Spurs Fight Between Black, Latino Prisoners

Ruben Castaneda, Washington Post, April 11, 2007

Corrections officers at the Prince George’s County Detention Center broke up a fight between a black detainee and a Latino detainee last weeka month after officials at the facility began separating black and Latino detainees in the lockdown unit.

The fight, which occurred last Wednesday, was at least the third conflict between black and Latino detainees at the Upper Marlboro facility since October.

Wednesday’s fight was over the use of a television in a medium- to maximum-security unit, according to a supervisory source in the detention center. Two hours a day are allotted for detainees to watch Spanish-language programs, said the supervisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to give interviews.

The precise cause of the fight was unclear. According to internal reports, a black detainee unplugged the TV, and he and a Latino detainee began exchanging punches. Corrections officers intervened. The fight was quelled quickly, and no one was injured, said Vicki D. Duncan, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Corrections.

The fracas was the second time in a month that black and Latino detainees found themselves in conflict over the use of a television. On March 3, two black detainees and two Latino detainees shouted at each other after the black inmateswho were watching videosbrushed off a request by the Latinos to view a program in Spanish.

To prevent such fights from recurring, the detention center last week introduced a new policy: Corrections officers will be on hand during the hours allotted for Spanish-language viewing and will be in charge of changing the channels, Duncan said.

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About 15 percent of all detainees in the detention center are Latino, and almost all the rest are black. Members of the black gang the Bloods and the Latino gang known as MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, are recruiting inside the detention center, the supervisor said.

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