October 21, 1995
Web posted at: 1:45 a.m. EDT
GREENVILLE, Illinois (CNN)-- A rash of prison disturbances over the past two days prompted the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Friday to lock down most of its facilities as a precaution.
Some prison officials said the unrest may be related to a congressional vote refusing to lower drug sentences and to the Million Man March in Washington.
In a press release, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said the lockdown was prompted by "disturbances" that have taken place since Thursday at the Federal Correctional Institutions in Talladega, Alabama; Allenwood, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; and Greenville, Illinois.
Prisoners started a fire at the Federal Correctional Institute in Memphis Friday afternoon, according to officials. The uprising was brought under control a few hours after it began, according to local officials. But federal officials said that the prison staff has not yet regained full control of the facility.
Spokesman Tom Metzger says the perimeter of the prison was not threatened in any way, and no danger exists to the community.
The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Greenville, Illinois, had its hands full with an inmate rebellion that broke out at 5:40 p.m. EDT on Friday, according to Tyrane Martin, public information officer at the prison.
Prison officials said several groups of inmates refused to return to their cells upon orders by the staff, and inmates took over most of a housing unit. Staff members there were able to barricade themselves in an area where the inmates could not easily reach them. A tactical response group rescued the staff members.
In a written statement, the FCI said that "from available information," there were no serious staff injuries. No information was available about possible inmate injuries.
A spokesman for the Utlaut Memorial Hospital in Greenville said two prison staff members were treated for minor injuries and released. Officials said that the prison's perimeter was secure and that there had been no escape attempts.
In Allenwood, Pennsylvania, a melee involving 150 inmates began in the dining hall of a medium-security prison. Inmates pulled set off fire alarms and broke windows, officials said.
A female staff member was burned when a hot liquid was thrown in her face. The prisoners did not take hostages, and calm was restored within an hour.
Thursday's riot in Talladega, Alabama, began when a group of inmates argued in the prison yard. As the fighting escalated, prisoners, armed with baseball bats, fought with guards, broke windows and set fires.
The disturbance lasted for several hours as police evacuated nearby neighborhoods and businesses. There were no major injuries to staff or prisoners.
Carlos Baralt, spokesman for the D.C.-based Bureau of Prisons, said it was "too early to tell" if the problems were the result of congressional drug sentencing vote earlier this week.
The Associated Press quoted two witnesses to the riot at Talladega prison as saying that inmates were upset over a vote in Congress to reject a recommendation from the U.S. Sentencing Commission to lower penalties for crack possession and trafficking.
Ed Baggett, a choir director at the Alabama prison, said the men were letting their anger be known over the recent vote. A law enforcement officer at the prison said the prisoners seemed "agitated" since the Million Man March held in Washington October 16.
Radio and television reports out of Allenwood said the disturbance there may also have been connected to the congressional vote.
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AP contributed to this report.
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