Kentucky

Official: Prison beyond repair

BURGIN — The burned and riot-torn buildings of Northpoint Training Center will probably be torn down and rebuilt, Kentucky Secretary of Justice and Public Safety J. Michael Brown said Monday.

The buildings to be razed comprise much of the medium-security prison in Boyle County. "We will have to start from scratch," Brown said.

However, two dorms should be reopened by the end of the week, and 300 inmates now housed in the gym and chapel will be moved there. Two hundred other inmates are living in the prison's only inhabitable dorm.

Brown and other officials toured Northpoint on Monday and revealed more details about the Friday night melee that injured 16. Authorities are reviewing security tapes and interviewing inmates as they investigate the riot.

The burning and rioting started after dinner, when inmates were moving between buildings, cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said. After smoke started building in the dorms, inmates were evacuated to the yard, where prisoners set more fires.

Eventually, six buildings were damaged extensively, and 700 of the prison's 1,200 inmates were transferred to 10 other prisons around the state.

Eight guards were treated for injuries on the scene. Eight inmates were taken to hospitals; all had been released from the hospitals as of Monday. Brown said the lack of serious injuries "was as close to a miracle as you can get."

Inmates at the Boyle County prison had been on lockdown — they had no access to the prison yard — since Aug. 18. The lockdown was ordered after 10 to 15 Hispanic inmates assaulted a black inmate and a white inmate, Brislin said.

Northpoint officials had not identified everyone involved in that altercation, so they implemented the lockdown to avoid further fights while they investigated, she said.

On Friday, prison officials announced a "controlled movement" schedule — meaning inmates would be allowed to enter the yard on a dorm-by-dorm basis. That's when the inmates began to riot and set fires, leaving only one dormitory habitable.

Brislin said officials don't know whether the Aug. 18 fight led to the fires and the riot. Officials also aren't certain how the inmates started the fires. However, prisoners at Northpoint are allowed to have matches and may smoke outdoors, Brislin said. There has been no smoking allowed since the fire.

Ruby Calhoun of Somerset said she visited Northpoint on Aug. 16, the Sunday before the riot, and was told by a relative that he thought racial tensions would cause trouble at the prison.

Officials of the union that represents corrections officers at Northpoint — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — have said that Northpoint was understaffed Friday night.

Brown, however, said 34 officers were on duty, more than on a typical Friday.

In the riot's aftermath, Northpoint's food services provider, Aramark, has been bringing food from Blackburn Correctional Complex in Fayette County. The company is preparing to set up a temporary food station at Northpoint, Brislin said.

Mobile medical units have been set up for medical care and pill distribution, she said.

Brislin said that while officers took control Friday, the inmates were kept in the prison yard, where they were given regular access to portable toilets. Additionally, inmates had access to showers Saturday.

Inmates will continue to have parole hearings about 45 minutes away at the Marion Adjustment Center near Lebanon, Brown said.

Meanwhile, 700 inmates were distributed among Kentucky's seven other medium-security prisons for men, the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville and the state's two private prisons for men.

Information about whether or where an inmate was moved is available through the Kentucky Offender Online Lookup. All information was updated Sunday and can be found at www.corrections.ky.gov/kool.htm.

Brown told reporters that some buildings were still smoldering Monday, filled with smoke, charred bricks and several inches of water. Other areas of the prison fared better, he said.

Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said people in the community are anxious to see whether riot damage affects jobs at Northpoint, which opened in 1983 and has a staff of 285. The county will work with the state department of corrections as the facility is restored, he said.

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