After years of litigation, private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America has agreed to a $600,000 settlement to compensate inmates at a Colorado facility for alleged prison staff-inflicted injuries that landed 13 inmates in the hospital. The injuries resulted from a six-hour 2004 riot that prison officials had failed to prepare for, even though they were warned it was likely to occur, according to the complaint. The injured inmates said they were not even involved in the riot. CBS Denver reports:
Thirteen inmates were taken to the hospital after the riots at the prison located about 45 miles east of Pueblo. […]
The rioting began when more than 100 inmates refused to return to their cells. Then the situation escalated as inmates set fires and attacked other prisoners.
Guards used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to get the inmates under control. The riot was limited to prison grounds. No inmates escaped.
Court documents reveal that supervisors at the prison ignored a warning that conditions were ripe for a riot despite those signs coming from both inmates and correctional officers.
The problem was that hundreds of prisoners that were transferred from Washington state were angry about being so far away from home. They were also upset that an 18-year-old transferred inmate was placed into isolation earlier that day.
Inmates said they were cuffed, dragged through water and left to sit in their cells that were then flooded with water.
The inmates said they have been pushing for change in the private prison system.
“I would gladly take no money if I knew that CCA was going to be no more, not only in Colorado but everywhere. It really should be up to states to run their own prisons, to supply their own correctional officers and to keep their own inmates in check instead of having someone who has labeled you as a number and is just trying to earn money off of you,” said plaintiff Vance Adams.
CCA is the largest U.S. private prison firm, and the settlement comes in the latest allegation of abuse, violations, and abysmal living conditions at CCA and other private prison facilities. Private prisons are incentivized to maximize profit from imprisonment, spending their resources to lobby for more incarceration and garner new contracts, rather than providing the optimum conditions for rehabilitation. Lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of generous private prison contributions, meanwhile, are incentivized to look the other way as troubling conditions persist.