2017: Corrections boss talks about Kansas staffing issues
Officers appeared ready to use lethal force if inmates didn’t remain in place during a violent uprising at a Kansas prison earlier this week, according to a log book that documented what it called the "intense" threat.
A large disturbance at Norton Correctional Facility on Tuesday night prompted the Kansas Department of Corrections to transfer 100 inmates out of the prison the next day. Corrections officers who have spoken on condition of anonymity have described the situation as a riot.
Inmates tipped over a medical response vehicle at one point, according to the log book, which was provided to The Eagle by the Kansas Organization of State Employees, the union that represents corrections officers. The log book was first reported by KCUR.
In news releases, KDOC described the uprising as an "inmate disturbance." Samir Arif, an agency spokesman, has said inmates set fire to a mattress, broke into a tool shed and smashed several prison windows.
The union said the log books show the situation went beyond what the state has disclosed publicly.
"It wasn’t just a simple mattress burning and a couple rocks being thrown," Robert Choromanski, the KOSE director, said.
Arif would not comment on the log book, other than to say an investigation into the disturbance was ongoing. On Wednesday, he said "our officers are trained to deal with situations like what happened at Norton last night."
The log book suggests a tense situation inside the prison as officers worked to regain control.
"40 (inmates) laid down by chapel, not restrained at this time. North yard threat is intense, advise (inmates) to remain on ground otherwise use lethal force," one entry reads.
Another entry says inmates were trying to run over an officer with a cart. "(Inmates) have the cart out and are driving it," an entry says.
Other entries document windows being broken and inmates breaking into an office.
"(Inmates) are throwing rocks at staff, Fire in front of shift office almost completely extinguished," an entry reads.
Multiple law enforcement agencies and firefighters responded to the uprising.
The prison in El Dorado experienced significant unrest earlier in the summer. Norton, however, had been relatively free of incidents until this week.
Overall, the prison system faces trouble recruiting enough corrections officers. Gov. Sam Brownback raised pay for officers at all prisons last month, and gave officers at El Dorado an even greater raise.
KDOC has also been moving inmates throughout the system this year. Transfers of inmates from Lansing to El Dorado contributed to the unrest there. But the agency has said transfers didn’t play a role in the disturbance at Norton.