The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 29, 2013

Inmate fights prompt lockdown

Conneaut prison restricts movements

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  A fight between inmates over the weekend sparked an incident at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution that put the prison in lockdown status, the prison reports.

One inmate was injured and taken to a hospital during fights that sprang up in two of the prison dormitories, according to a statement issued by the prison. No corrections officers were hurt, officials said.

On Monday, inmates were on “restricted movement” status, meaning they are escorted wherever they go, John Tanner, LaECI public information officer, said in an email. “Things are almost back to normal operations,” he said.

A fight involving inmates was reported at 11:16 p.m. Friday in one of the inmate dorms, Tanner said in the statement he issued Sunday. It was stopped by officers who used “non-lethal force to quell the fighting and quickly gain control,” Tanner said.

Several minutes later, another fight began in a different dorm that was stopped by officers, the statement shows. Officers also tussled with inmates as staff was identifying the participants in the fights, Tanner said in the statement.

As per protocol, the prison contacted the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Tanner said.

“Facility management and staff are working closely with department officials to review the incidents,” Tanner said in the statement. “Further details about the cause of these fights and the total number of participants are pending the outcome of said review.”

On Monday, Tanner — via email — said a window broken during the incident was quickly replaced. “There was minor damage done that night,” he said in the message.

Sources indicate the injured inmate may have suffered a broken leg. Conneaut Fire Chief Steve Lee, after checking records, said Monday his ambulance crews were not summoned to the prison and did not transport the inmate.

Conneaut Police Chief Charles Burlingham said Monday his department was contacted about the incident Saturday afternoon by prison staff. Burlingham said he understood the brawl may have been gang-related and that as many as 20 inmates may have been removed from the LaECI and transferred to a different prison.

Calls to the ODRC and OHP in Columbus were not immediately returned Monday afternoon. An e-mail message seeking comment was also sent to Corrections Corporation of America, which has owned and operated the ex-state prison since January 2012.