Indiana Suspends Inmate Transfers From Arizona After Prison Riot

Indiana authorities have transferred more than 200 inmates who helped instigate a two-hour riot at a state prison, officials said Wednesday.

Indiana officials also have suspended plans to accept hundreds of more inmates from Arizona following the Tuesday riot at the New Castle Correctional Facility, which is privately managed.

Prison officials reviewed tapes of the riot to determine who should removed. The transfers included 69 inmates from Arizona, who have been moved to the Wabash Valley prison near Carlisle. A total of 151 inmates from Indiana were taken to the Plainfield Correctional Facility, according to a statement from the Indiana Department of Correction.

The remaining New Castle inmates were working with staff to clean up debris from their living areas, the DOC said. Prisoners set mattresses and paper afire in the courtyard and destroyed furniture, broke windows as some armed themselves with clubs before the medium-security prison was secured, officials said.

Two staff members and seven prisoners suffered minor injuries. Some trouble continued hours after order was restored, as at one point the staff set off several percussion grenades after some inmates became unruly. The rest of the night went smoothly, officials said.

"It was a very, very quiet night within the facility," State police Sgt. Rod Russell said Wednesday.

The fracas that eventually involved about 500 men from both states started in the courtyard because some of the newly arrived prisoners from Arizona were upset with the rules, Russell said.

"Going to chow, they have to wear their green shirts, and they didn't want to wear their green shirts," he said.

Some of the new inmates had complained about a lack of recreation and other policies, said Trina Randall, a spokeswoman for GEO Group Inc., the Florida company that in January 2006 took over the prison's management.

"A lot of them didn't realize it was a non-tobacco facility until they got here," Randall said.

In Arizona, prisoners can smoke in the courtyard. In Indiana, tobacco is banned.

Randall also said that prisoners received slightly less food in Indiana than in Arizona.

Prison guard Larry Savage said he, two other guards and three maintenance workers barricaded themselves in a room as dozens of inmates tried to break in before a prison response team arrived about 15 minutes later.

"They were wrapped up in masks, with sticks, knives, shanks," Savage said of the inmates. "They were just flexing their muscles and they wanted to show that they could take the prison over at any time, and that's what they did."

The disturbance occurred six weeks after the first of some 600 Arizona inmates began joining 1,050 Indiana prisoners at the prison about 45 miles east of Indianapolis. Arizona felt the transfers were necessary to alleviate overcrowding.

Indiana House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, criticized the decision by Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration to take inmates from Arizona.

"You are bringing outside elements into a prison situation and also bringing their gangs and their culture," Bauer said. "These prisoners also have friends and families (back in Arizona). I think it was inevitable."

Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday defended the state's contract with a private operator.

"This (idea) is not particularly new," Daniels said Wednesday morning on WIBC-AM. "Lots of states do it."