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Fights, fire, chaos, a busted-down wall: Inside the Idaho prison disturbance in April

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Idaho State Correctional Center

Idaho Department of Correction officers begin to search H-Block, Tier 1 at 8:41 p.m. inside the Idaho State Correctional Center south of Boise. Inmates started a fire and broke out a wall during a disturbance on April 10. This image of security camera footage was provided to the Idaho Statesman by a correctional officer.

Documents and firsthand accounts shed new light on a chaotic incident earlier this year at an Idaho prison south of Boise that required hospitalizations and caused thousands of dollars in damage — including a wall being breached by inmates.

The April 10 incident — Idaho Department of Correction officials have taken care not to call it a riot — also highlighted potential security risks. At least one fire was started and the housing tier filled with smoke, and inmates were able to bust through a wall to gain access to a recreation yard within the prison’s security fence.

Four residents of the Idaho State Correctional Center were hospitalized in Boise after fights broke out in Tier 1 of the prison’s H-Block, according to a news release after the unrest. A fifth ISCC resident was evaluated in a hospital two days later for an injury that was apparently sustained that evening, the release said.

Idaho State Correctional Center

Incarcerated men run garbage duty at the Idaho State Correctional Center. ISCC is a men’s prison housing minimum-security, medium-security and close-custody prisoners.

Bills for the damage exceeded $20,000, according to an IDOC spokesperson.

ISCC is one of several prisons located south of Boise, and it houses more than 2,100 men at various security levels. The prison’s H-Block is a separate building from all other housing blocks in the main part of the prison, connected only by an outdoor walkway. Once inside, H-Block is divided into three tiers.

Tier 1 is a large room with a dorm-style layout, meaning there are no cells, but rather rows of bunk beds and rows of tables. To the west of the Tier 1 section lies the H-Block recreation yard.

Records obtained by the Idaho Statesman show that the incident started at around 4:30 p.m., with fights preceding the starting of a fire, which prompted the IDOC’s version of a SWAT team to be called to the prison. That team, known as the Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT), cleared dozens of people from the H-Block recreation yard and restrained some.

By the time officers searched Tier 1, all inmates were already in the recreation yard. Emails obtained by the Statesman via a public records request also indicate that some of the inmates consumed prison-made alcohol that day.

In emails and phone interviews, Idaho prison officials declined to answer specific questions regarding the situation, as the matter remains under investigation.

Idaho State Correctional Center

A man inside H-Block, Tier 1 of the Idaho State Correctional Center throws items onto an open fire during an incident inside the prison on April 10. This image of security camera footage was provided to the Idaho Statesman by a correctional officer.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has completed its inquiry, spokesperson Patrick Orr wrote in an email. Reports were then transferred to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.

As of Friday, the prosecutor’s office was still reviewing reports and screening the incident for possible charges, according to a spokesperson. No charges have been filed.

Whether the incident falls within Idaho’s riot statute will be determined by the Ada County prosecutor, IDOC spokesperson Jeff Ray said in an email.

According to state law, a riot is defined as “any action, use of force or violence, or threat thereof, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use such force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons acting together, and without authority of law,” which results in physical injury to a person, damage to property or a disturbance to public peace. There are misdemeanor and felony charges available.

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