California prison riot injures 9, fueling violence concerns in U.S.

(Xinhua) 10:09, February 04, 2024

SACRAMENTO, the United States, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- A prison riot in California involving 200 inmates has injured nine and prompted a statewide prison lockdown on Thursday, once again bringing the U.S. state's troubled prison system into focus.

The riot happened Wednesday at Ironwood State Prison in Riverside County when officers were escorting an inmate across the yard as part of a contraband investigation, authorities said on Thursday.

While an inmate, who headbutted an officer, was being subdued, "approximately 200 incarcerated people in the yard rushed toward the officers attacking them with fists and rocks," said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

After firing a "warning shot," prison officers deployed tear gas and "non-lethal impact rounds" at the inmates. Eight prison staff members and one inmate were hospitalized and later released.

Following the riot, inmates across California are being confined to their cells as authorities are conducting a statewide threat assessment. So far, 30 inmates have been identified as having been directly involved in the riot, and an investigation is underway.

This riot comes amidst a flurry of violence at California's prisons in recent months, including several homicides and sexual abuse allegations.

The latest death was reported last week at the High Desert State Prison in Northern California. An inmate was fatally shot by a correctional officer as he was stabbing another inmate, according to the CDCR.

Recent lawsuits alleging systemic sexual abuse at women's prisons in California, with over 130 former female inmates accusing guards of forced sexual acts, have also attracted widespread attention.

The plaintiffs who served time at California's women's prisons in Chino and Chowchilla are suing the CDCR and more than 30 current and former prison officers for abusing them in prison.

It's the latest in a series targeting sexual abuse in California's women's prisons, highlighting a disturbing pattern of misconduct and inadequate oversight.

The situation is likely to worsen further due to the heavy financial burden on the prison system. According to state finance documents, the cost of incarcerating one person has increased by more than 90 percent in the past decade, skyrocketing to 132,860 U.S. dollars annually.

The surging cost has prompted California Governor Gavin Newsom to propose closing three state prisons and canceling a contract with a fourth private prison.

The overcrowded conditions in the state's prisons continue to impact both inmates and staff, leading to increased levels of violence and the spread of infectious diseases, according to a 2023 analysis of the Newport Beach, California-based Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

"California's prison overcrowding crisis continues to be a persistent problem. In 2020, the state's prison population stood at around 130,000, with many facilities still operating at over 200 percent of their designed capacity," said the analysis.

Such conditions create a breeding ground for resentment and fuel recidivism, potentially leading to more crime upon release.

The high recidivism rate in California underscores this concern, with a significant number of released individuals returning to prison due to a lack of job opportunities, housing, or effective rehabilitation programs.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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