Photo credit: Komo News
Six inmates and five staff members at the prison facility have tested positive for the virus.
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(TMU) — According to Washington State Patrol, there was a prison riot involving over 100 inmates at the Monroe Corrections Complex on Wednesday. Local news source KING5 reported that things were set on fire during the disturbance. However, other sources only reported threats of fires.
It is not clear what sparked the uprising or if the prisoners had any demands, but this is the same prison that has been in the news in recent weeks due to a coronavirus outbreak. The Department of Corrections website says that a total of six inmates and five staff members at the Monroe facility have tested positive for the virus.
Overhead video captured by KOMO News showed a large group of inmates handcuffed in a field with masks.
BREAKING: Hundreds of prisoners inside the Monroe Corrections Complex are creating a massive disturbance and threatening to set fires. Six prisoners at the facility tested positive for COVID-19.Story: https://bit.ly/2woBNxx
Posted by KOMO News on Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Earlier this week, a lawyer representing the inmates filed a suit for their release. Nick Allen of Columbia Legal Services, has argued that inmates in many other states across the country have been released amid the growing pandemic, but Washington, one of the first states with reported cases, still hasn’t made the decision.
The state of Washington “is quickly becoming an outlier by continuing to refuse to release anyone from its prisons as a public health response to COVID19,” Allen said, according to HeraldNet.
Many states throughout the U.S. have already started to release inmates to help prevent the virus from spreading throughout the prisons. The number of people incarcerated in San Francisco County prisons has been reduced by nearly 50 percent since January 21. In that time, the city’s imprisoned population fell from 1,238 inmates to just 766.
In the suit, Allen Wrote that all of the prisoners “breathe the same air, and use the same toilets, showers, and sinks,” which means that there is a high probability that the virus will spread around the prison.
“Mr. Kill is worried about contracting COVID-19 not only because of his communal living situation but also because of his work in the kitchen where he stood shoulder to shoulder for hours on end with many other people,” Allen wrote of one of the prisoners.
Prison riots like this have been happening all over the world since the coronavirus pandemic began. Last month, 16 inmates escaped a prison in Italy after a riot broke out because officials canceled all visits. In Iran, over 100,000 inmates have been released from prison, but those who remained have also rioted in hopes of breaking free. In Columbia, 23 people died and 83 people were injured during a prison riot late last month, sparked by inmates who were hoping to escape. This week, Al Jazeera reported that Lebanese prisoners set fires and wielded knives in another alleged escape attempt.
Experts have argued that prisons can be like “Petri dishes” and encourage the spread of disease because inmates are held together in such crowded facilities that are typically not kept in the most sanitary conditions. Prison food is also not very nutritious and has likely left many inmates with weakened immune systems, leaving them even more vulnerable to catching illnesses like the one sweeping across the world.