Prison Damage Extensive

Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Karla Ward, Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader, August 23, 2009

Extensive damage from multiple fires set Friday during rioting at Northpoint Training Center is forcing the transfer of 700 of the prison’s 1,200 inmates to other facilities.

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Prison spokeswoman Mendalyn Cochran said the inmates have been compliant since rioting was quelled Friday night at the medium-security prison about 5 miles north of Danville in Boyle County.

Officials declined to discuss the reason behind the incident, saying only that they are investigating it and confirming the prison has been under lockdown since Tuesday, when 10 to 15 Hispanic inmates assaulted a black inmate and white inmate. According to the prison’s Web site, 57 percent of its 1,200 inmates are white, 40 percent are black and 3 percent are other races.

During the riot, the inmates set fire to a number of buildings. Cochran said six buildings–the kitchen, multipurpose area, sanitation, visitation area, canteen and medical services–were total losses. The rioting stopped after a Kentucky State Police special response team fired tear gas.

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The prison is a state-run medium-security facility. It has fences, which minimum-security prisons typically do not. And unlike maximum-security facilities that usually house prisoners in single cells, Northpoint puts more than one inmate in a cell, Cochran said.

The union that represents employees at the prison–the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Kentucky–issued a news release Saturday night attributing some of the blame for the riots to underfunding of equipment and training for staff at the prison. The group said in the release that the employees lacked working radios. State officials could not be reached for comment.

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