Norton inmate gives details of prison abuses during riot
The following is an inmate account of what happened during the riot at the Norton Correctional Facility in Norton, Kansas on Sept. 5. This inmate was not a participant of the riot, but notes the abuses inflicted on all the prisoners during and following the riot, as well as the overcrowding of prisons throughout the state.
"- About 8:15 PM, Tuesday, inmates lit fires in a couple of the living units during our yard period; which resulted in all of the living units being released to yard at one time.
- Once the entire population was at yard, they refused to be locked down; then someone overturned a bleacher and it sparked a waterfall effect. Inmates began to break into buildings and destroying property. Ironically and certainly never reported, the tools they used, including an axe, were ones they found in fire and safety cases that several officers left on the yard when they abandoned their posts and left the facility. Other tools were taken from a maintenance shed that didn't have them locked behind two tiers of locks; like their policies required.
- Inmates also broke into the Clinic, destroyed a lot of equipment; plus, a box of syringes and a case of morphine - none of which was ever recovered. They broke into the facility's evidence locker and stole all the contraband out of it and were passing it out, as well. Inmates stole their SST officers’ uniforms and Tasers, as well as, burning their Shift Office.
- Several officers were injured with objects being thrown at them. Apparently, the inmates who organized the thing agreed beforehand to concentrate only on property damage, this time; I guess, hoping that would create the change they were looking for?
- It took over two hours for any response team to make it to the scene of the riot. It wasn't until much later that the Highway Patrol and other law enforcement made it here as reinforcements. They lost control of both the Medium and Minimum facilities; so I'm sure every response team in the area, including some in northeast Kansas, were called.
- Here's the crazy part. After the inmates finally agreed to stop; they separated those that didn't riot from those that caused it. The inmates who caused it were sent to other facilities. The ones who didn't were taken to a ball field; where we had to wait for over ten hours without any protective clothing, water, or restroom facilities in 40-degree weather. Inmates were falling out, throwing-up, and shaking uncontrollably because it was so cold. Because the initial alarm was a fire alarm, inmates came out many times in just their gym shorts and shower shoes with a t-shirt. It was so sad to see this- grow men crying and trying to huddle next to each other because of the cold. This, while the officers were issued inmate hoodies, coats, gloves and served coffee while they watched. I've never been so ashamed of humanity in my life - it was certainly a traumatic event I won't ever forget...
- Ten hours after being made to lie on the ground and being handcuffed behind our backs, then made to stand in the frigid temperatures with no water, restroom facilities, or protective clothing - they took us to the gym; where several hundred people were placed in the same room with no place to rest except some bleachers that were never pulled out. The place was crazy - flies so thick, you couldn't sleep if you wanted to. Finally, several hours later, they served everybody sack lunches. It wasn't until 6:30 PM Wednesday that we were allowed to return to our living unit. Everything has been restricted movement since then.
- Any indication about what's next? Well, today the Unit Team informed people in our living unit they "Were not accepting grievances at this time;" which, effectively removed the only avenue they have to air their grievances...crazy. They cancelled Sick Call; so, the people who were sick from the 10-hours in the cold could not get the medical attention they needed. There were a couple of small incidents in the last 24 hours, nothing major.
-I've listed some contact information if you want to copy and paste a letter using any of the information above.
Legislative Post Auditor
Scott Frank: firstname.lastname@example.org
DOJ Special Litigation Section: Steven H. Rosenbaum, Section Chief
This guy is the one who has been responding to other inmates and their family's communications regarding the overcrowding at this facility.
House Corrections & Oversight Committee
Senate Ways & Means
KSN and KAKE news have ran stories, along with local radio; but, they were only reporting what they were told - which, was far from the truth. For example, there is an inmate in the Infirmary still, who overdosed on the morphine and other Schedule A drugs that were stolen out of the Clinic and never recovered. The cause of the entire incident is the overcrowding; which was caused when KDOC officials attempted to gain funding to build new prison in Lansing, in spite of the fact they just spend almost $2 million of taxpayer money just last year to put new roofs and other upgrades on the units they now want to tear down. It caused major public push-back (I know there are a million stories on it out there), and I think the Legislature finally denied their request (not sure, though).
Anyway, the root problem is Kansas has experienced what they call "grid creep." The New Law provided determinate sentences; but the sentences for almost all crimes have over doubled since it was enacted in 1993. There were only three (3) off-grid felonies then, now there are over fifty (50). Bottom line: Their checkbook can't pay for their thirst for retribution. The result, Kansas prisons are overcrowded, and what happened Tuesday was the symptom - it's just that simple."