Cause and Timeline of the Riot At Avenal Prison

Last Saturday, numerous incidents occurred at Avenal State Prison.

At approximately 1125 hours, there was a riot on the Facility 2 Yard involving about 400 inmates. The inmates refused staff orders to stop, necessitating the use of Blast Dispersion Grenades and OC Pepper Spray. The inmates were separated and weapons were posted in all Facility 2 Housing Units.

The Hispanic inmates were placed in the Facility 2 Dining Hall and the Black inmates were placed in the Facility 2 Gym. At approximately 1650 hours, one black inmate and one Hispanic inmate were observed fighting in Housing Unit 230. Staff discharged the 40MM to stop the fight.

At approximately 1750 hours, two Hispanic inmates and one black inmate were observed fighting and complied with staff’s verbal orders to stop. At approximately 2000 hours the Hispanic inmates in the Facility 2 Dining Room became disruptive by throwing trash, food, trays and kicking the doors.

Staff secured themselves in the in the Culinary Office until communication was established with the inmates in the Dining Room. The Hispanic inmates complied with orders and exited the Dining Room. They were searched and placed in restraints without further incident. Four inmates were transported to outside hospitals due to injuries, and three have returned to the institution while one remains at Fresno community Hospital.

Sixty inmates were transported to Solano State Prison. Avenal State Prison was placed on Modified Program as a result of the incidents. There were no staff injuries.

After the Avenal riot, NewsBlaze published a story speculating that the Correctional Officers (CO’s) instigated the riot by agitating the inmates. The source said the CO’s were verbally abusing the inmates and making them stand in the sun for hours. With the current staff shortages there are usually only 2 CO’s to every 200 inmates. Any CO exhibiting such behavior would have to be suicidal. They know that disrespecting inmates could get them assaulted or even killed.

If an inmate were to read the article and told other inmates, that in itself could be enough to instigate a riot. People tend to believe published articles. They naively trust that what is written is truth. In this instance, there is no proof that this is what occurred.

More than likely, the source is an inmate. Here’s some news for you, inmates lie. It’s appalling that these statements are written as fact when you even stated in the article that “While there is no way to know the cause of this riot…” Exactly, you do not know the cause of the riot. And to say that CO’s started it for their own benefit is indefensible.

The Chino riot was apparently started by Blacks and Southern Mexicans. The Avenal riot was also instigated by Blacks and Southern Mexicans. It would appear that there is a race war inside our prisons. Yes, unfortunately racism is rampant inside the prison walls. On any day, in any prison this tension can turn into a riot.

To say that “Important legislative hearings begin this week and prisoner advocates say this is the reason the guards are stirring up the inmates, to cause problems and make it appear to lawmakers and voters that funding for the prison system is paramount, and that inmates cannot be released.” is pure rhetoric and speculation and should never be printed by the media. Especially, a fairly new internet news source looking to establish themselves as “reliable and unbiased.”

Correctional Officers are not “guards.” Their job entails much more than just standing around and watching inmates.

In reading comments and listening to what people say, there is a common belief that Correctional Officers are overpaid. If the people who say these things consider that when Correctional Officers go to work each day, knowing there are people that want to harm or kill them, the money doesn’t seem too much. How much money would you want if your duty that day is to watch an inmate defecate and then sift through that feces searching for contraband? How much would you want if an inmate tossed urine and feces in your face that has been steeping in a cup for weeks? How about the exposure to potentially deadly diseases such as Hepatitis C and staph infections?

On top of all that, the administration turns a blind eye and basically says “Oh well. Sorry about that.”

For me, there is not enough money in the world. How about you?

At this time, Correctional Officers are furloughed 3 days each month. Prisons are 24/7 operations. There is no way the Correctional Officers can take their furlough days. And if they do, someone still has to fill their post. How is that saving the state money? It’s not. It’s just another slap in the face that CO’s must endure.

Governor Schwarzenegger is looking into privately operated companies to run our prisons, that pay their officers $10 to $15 an hour. Do you think they really care about their jobs? They certainly don’t care about the inmates. You’ll really have something to complain about if this happens.

In closing, I just want to reiterate that there is much that we as civilians do not know about what goes on behind prison walls. I am the wife of a Correctional Officer and I’m extremely proud of him. I’m grateful for everyday that he comes home to me safe. It is a long and arduous process to become a Correctional Officer and there are many that cannot handle it.

The suicide rate among Correctional Officers is high because the job can suck away your soul if you let it. Imagine being around society’s worst on a daily basis. And sometimes being forced to work several 16 hour shifts a week. It is not easy, it is not fun and it is a thankless job that no one else wants to do. I don’t, but I’m so very proud and grateful to the courageous men and women that do.

Name witheld by request