Report from Perilous on recent prisoner disturbance in Alabama at a county jail.
During a transfer of three prisoners, a group of “unruly” prisoners engaged in what the sheriff’s department called a “riot”—although they did not specify what that entailed. According to the sheriff’s department, the prisoners were upset because they believed that one of the prisoners being transferred had been pushed to the floor, although the sheriff claims the prisoner actually jumped.
Prisoners in the block who were not fully locked down due to inoperable locks joined in and could not be locked down. After the situation escalated, the sheriff called in back-up officers and deployed a “pepper bomb” in order to subdue the prisoners.
The sheriff acknowledged that prisoners who had not been involved in the disturbance were exposed to the chemical agents.
The sheriff’s office stated that “no officers or inmates were hurt. However there were heavy exposures to the deterrent.” No information was given regarding injuries to the prisoner who fell.
While the gas was being cleared, inmates were taken to a holding area outdoors within the facility. The jail was then decontaminated and the prisoners were put back in the cell block.
The event occurred just a day after 3 of the 27 members of the Covington County Jail staff were fired by Sheriff Blake Turman after they were caught violating jail policy by allowing prisoners to pass out the mail, in some instances to prisoners in unsecured cells. The sheriff clarified the gravity of this situation to a news station, saying “Yes, they were open—not to get outside—but it was one door closer to getting outside.”
Five months before the event, in September of 2018, Michael Ansley, 40, died at the facility under uncertain circumstances.
“Pepper bomb used to calm riot in county jail“, Andalusia Star-News, March 15, 2019.
“Inmate riot subdued at Covington County Jail“, WSFA, March 15, 2019.
Covington County Sheriffs Department. March 15, 2019. Today around 4pm, three inmates were selected to be transferred to another detention facility due to illegal activity and disruptive behavior… [Facebook Post]. Accessed March 19, 2019.
“Covington County sheriff fires 3 correctional officers“, WSFA, March 14, 2019.
“Inmate dies in county jail (Updated with identity)“, The Andalusia Star-News, September 6, 2018