Criminal charges are expected against a group of around twenty inmates which have been identified as the main participants in the May disturbance at Spring Creek Correctional Center, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said. The department is seeking restitution for nearly $70,000 in property damage sustained during the riot.
“The Department of Corrections has conducted a thorough investigation and has identified a group of roughly 20 inmates who will be facing criminal charges in addition to the internal DOC disciplinary process,” spokesperson Sarah Gallagher wrote in an email.
“The other approximately 40 inmates in Hotel the evening of May 7th who did not actively participate but refused to lock down in their cells, will be internally disciplined for failing to obey a direct order of staff, a minor infraction.”
The riot, a protest in which inmates blockaded the entrance to their housing unit, was the largest in the institution’s history. The inmates remained in control of the unit for several hours the night of May 7, until a special DOC response team dispersed them with tear gas.
The department says that the inmates were protesting cell inspections. The protestors initially held a “meal-service sit-in” that evening, Gallagher said, “in which not one of the 62 prisoners in Hotel Mod participated in dinner service but instead remained in their housing unit.”
The protest escalated that evening. Around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7, inmates stacked furniture against the entrance to Spring Creek’s H Mod, denying DOC staff access. The protestors also damaged furniture, fixtures, and surveillance equipment in the mod, breaking windows, dislodging toilets, and wrecking laundry facilities.
At the time, prison Superintendent William Lapinskas said that he and his staff judged that the inmates were not a threat to one another.
“We knew instantly that their intent was to damage the facility, not to harm each other,” he said at a press conference shortly following the incident. “I think this was a well-planned-out riot. This was meant to send a very strong message.”
Lapinskas called on the assistance of a DOC special operations response team, which arrived after midnight and tossed tear gas grenades into the mod through a skylight.
The department recently released a small number of documents describing complaints made by four inmates at the housing unit. At least two inmates took issue with property seizures, but it is not clear from the documents whether those seizures took place during cell inspections.
The department has so far refused to release other documents sought by the Seward Journal, including surveillance footage of the incident and a list of inmates who were living in H mod at the time.
The housing unit has been operational since June 4 and now houses 56 general population inmates, Gallagher said. Only some of the men living in H Mod on May 7 are still there; those inmates had been found not to have actively participated in the rioting, Gallagher said.