Inmates rampage through offices, set fires at Kansas prison

At least 26 people have been sickened by the coronavirus at the prison

LANSING, Kan. – Inmates at a Kansas prison where at least 26 people have been sickened by the coronavirus rampaged through offices, breaking windows and setting small fires for several hours before the facility was secured, prison officials said Friday.

The disturbance involving about 20 men began about 3 p.m. Thursday in medium-security cell house C of the Lansing Correctional Facility, said Rebecca Witte, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Corrections.

The situation lasted until around 11 p.m., when staff using tear gas were able to re-enter the building and began taking inmates from their cells to another building on the grounds. Everyone was secured by 2 a.m. Friday, she said.

Two inmates had minor injuries and were treated at the site. Staff members were able to get out of the building when the disturbance began and no staff was injured, Witte said.

It is unclear what caused the disturbance, and Witte declined to speculate while the investigation is ongoing about whether the coronavirus outbreak played a role in it.

The Lansing prison has drawn attention recently amid the coronavirus crisis, with the corrections department reporting 14 staff and 12 inmates with confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the facility.

Every staff member and inmate at the Lansing prison received three cloth masks on Thursday. The prison had instituted a plan for reduced movement last Saturday that kept different units in the facility from intermingling.

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas asked the Kansas Supreme Court to immediately release prisoners who have preexisting medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the coronavirus. That class action petition is on behalf of seven inmates at prisons, including the Lansing facility.

The department said Thursday that state officials recognize that inmates and prison staff are especially at risk of infection and have taken steps to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in corrections facilities.

The cell house, which holds around 150 inmates, sustained “quite a bit of damage” during the disturbance, Witte said. In addition to the broken windows, prisoners damaged computers, furniture, security cameras and lights.

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