BUCKEYE, Ariz. – Authorities were in marathon negotiations to free two state prison guards who were taken hostage (search) by inmates and confined to an armed officers' tower.
The emergency began Sunday morning, when one inmate attacked a guard during breakfast preparations, then met up with another inmate in the prison yard and the two gained access to the tower.
The captives have been allowed to speak with negotiators and said they are not seriously injured, prison officials said early Monday.
"The negotiators have spoken with them directly, we know they are OK," said Cam Hunter, a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman.
"It's positive that the inmates allowed us to talk to the officers. It's assuring for the families, for the correctional officers, for the community."
Hunter said that despite the length of the negotiations, talks were progressing.
"The conversations have never broken off," she said. "They're back and forth and there is a good rhythm going."
Two other officers and a staff member were also injured by the inmates, officials said, and paramedics took two people from the prison to area hospitals Sunday.
One of the patients had severe injuries, Phoenix Fire Department (search) Communications Supervisor Rebecca Dauer told The Arizona Republic. Dauer could not confirm any identities.
All other staff and inmates were accounted for, and the rest of the inmates were locked in their cells, authorities said.
Negotiation teams and officers from the Corrections Department, the Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office were at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis (search).
Joe Masella, president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers' Association, said that although he had no details about the situation, negotiators generally try to calm the inmates and "make them realize that they're in a no-win situation."
The hostages' families were told of the situation. "The families are in a state of anxiety and turmoil, just like we are here," said Bennie Rollins, another department spokesman.
The medium- to high-security prison, west of Phoenix in Buckeye, houses 4,400 inmates, most convicted of felonies such as manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Masella said the prison had been very short staffed at one point but that the situation had been resolved.
He said prison staff did a good job of ensuring no other inmate disturbances occurred after the hostage-taking Sunday.
"It could have been a lot worse," Masella said. "Once these inmates get a taste of blood, so to speak, there's no telling what they can do."
Earlier this month, the prison was the site of two small fires started after an altercation between two inmates spread unrest among 80 prisoners. No one was hurt as a result of the fires, but three correctional officers suffered minor injuries.
Hunter, the department spokeswoman, said the two incidents were not related.
The Corrections Department last dealt with a hostage situation in 1973, when inmates at the prison in Florence killed two prison staff members, Hunter said.