The Spring Creek Correctional Facility in Seward is still in cleanup mode after an overnight riot occurred last week. On Tuesday, May 7, 62 inmates in the Hotel Mod housing unit barricaded the entryway to their unit and began damaging everything from security cameras and fire suppressant systems to sinks and toilets. Public Information Officer Sarah Gallagher said that inmates caused an estimated $100,000 in damages.
Some initial reports suggested that one correctional officer was inside the unit when the rioting began and left the unit to get backup. Gallagher said that the inmates actually convinced the officer to step outside the unit to grab trash bags and other basic cleaning supplies and then immediately barricaded the doors, preventing the officer from re-entering.
The riot began at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night and lasted for roughly 10 hours, according to a May 8 press release from the Department of Corrections. Correctional officers from Kenai and Anchorage were sent to Spring Creek as part of a Special Operations Response Team (SORT) to respond and put an end to the rioting.
“The SORT Teams are made up of designated correctional officers whose members are selected, trained and equipped to resolve situations such as the one that occurred at Spring Creek,” Gallagher said.
The SORT team was able to gain entry to the unit using a barricade breacher and subdued the prisoners using various forms of non-lethal force, including restraints, “less lethal” munitions and non-lethal chemical agents. No injuries to officers or inmates were reported during the incident.
While the investigation into the incident is ongoing, Gallagher said that it was not a gang-related riot. Members of several prison gangs, including the 1488’s, Kaucasian Kings, Family Over Everything and the Native Brotherhood, were housed in the unit at the time, but all 62 inmates acted together to barricade the door and cause damage to the facility. Gallagher said that while the exact motivation behind the incident is yet to be determined, it was clear that the inmates were trying to send a message to the administration.
Gallagher said that all the prisoners involved are subject to internal disciplinary processes as well as criminal prosecution through the Alaska State Troopers. No charges have been filed pending investigation by the DOC.
Gallagher said that about half of the prisoners involved are still housed at Spring Creek in a more restrictive environment, and the rest have been sent to other facilities in the state.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy visited the facility on Friday and thanked the correctional officers for handling the situation.
“I just want to assure the people of Alaska that we’re in pretty good hands with these folks,” Dunleavy said during his visit. “And this was taken care of, I think, by the book, without injury, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
Gallagher said that the superintendent of the prison, William Lapinskas, expects the repairs to the housing unit to be completed within 30 days, at which point prisoners will be moved back in to the facility.