Apr 25, 2013 9:50 AM by Maddie Garrett

Former inmates: Crowley prison riot settlement not a victory

A $600,000 settlement has been reached for nearly 200 prisoners injured in a prison riot eight years ago. It happened in July 2004, at the Crowley County Correctional Complex and lasted almost six hours.

In all, 13 inmates were taken to the hospital afterward and hundreds more injured. In the years after the riot, roughly 200 inmates filed lawsuits against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the for-profit company that operates the prison.

But some of the inmates don't feel like the settlement was a victory. They said they wanted to see CCA held accountable, and would rather the case had gone to trial.

Vance Adams and William Morris are two of the plaintiffs who feel that way. They are former inmates of the Crowley Correctional Facility and still remember the night of the riot vividly.

"We started watching out our window and saw fires and inmates running around with their heads covered and just running a muck," recalled Adams.

Morris added, "It was something that I will never forget."

The riot started when more than 100 prisoners refused to return to their cells. Tensions were high and soon the inmates were setting fires, attacking the prison and other inmates.

"I just saw a bunch of people that were angry," said Morris. "And they were taking it out on the prison itself. Unfortunately there were some opportunists who used that to harm other people."

The prisoners involved in the riot had been transferred from Washington State and were angry about being taken so far away from home. They were also upset that a young inmate from Washington had been placed in isolation that day.

Court documents revealed that prison officials knew conditions were ripe for a riot but ignored those warning signs.

"More and more inmates and correctional officers were complaining to superiors about the rising tension, nothing was done," said lead trial attorney Bill Trine.

In the end, the inmates said they don't see the settlement as a victory, and would rather see change at the prison.

"I would gladly take no money if I knew CCA was going to be no more, anywhere, it really should be up to states to run their own prisons," explained Adams.

"Would you take six hundred thousand dollars to be humiliated? That's how I feel about it," Morris said.

CCA's Senior Director of Public Affairs, Steven Owen, released this statement in regard to the settlement:

"Today's agreement brings to a close a now eight-year-old legal matter. It was an obvious economic decision to reach this agreement rather than engage in the expense of defending 200 individual claims. We stand by our position that our staff acted appropriately.

We take the safety and security of our staff and the inmates entrusted to our care very seriously. CCA continues to operate the Crowley County Correctional Facility, which is accredited by the independent American Correctional Association with a score of 100 percent and has a strong record of service. We appreciate the longstanding and ongoing partnership we have with the state of Colorado."



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