One correction officer was injured and more than 100 inmates have been moved after two days of unrest connected to COVID-19 at Carl Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield, state Department of Correction officials said.
“The department is working around the clock to keep people safe and healthy during an unprecedented health pandemic,” DOC officials said in a statement. “The department has zero tolerance for acts of violence against DOC personnel, or orchestrated efforts to disrupt operations.”
DOC officials said inmates who were threatening to organize hunger strikes and work stoppages have either been moved to other prisons or were transferred to to the state’s highest security prison, Northern Correctional Institution, to be reviewed for “administrative segregation.”
Tensions began to climb Friday night among the inmate population at Carl Robinson which houses 1,200 medium security inmates over modifications made to limit movement including serving meals in the housing units as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, DOC officials said.
The modifications were “aimed at protecting the employees and the population as part of the COVID-19 response,” officials said.
Offenders from two units within the facility who were threatening to organize hunger strikes and work stoppages Friday night were removed by the DOC’s Correctional Emergency Response Team, DOC officials said.
Saturday afternoon a fight broke out between three inmates leading to one correction officer being “deliberately” punched in the face, officials said. The correction officer is being treated at an area hospital.
As a result of the two incidents, 86 inmates were transferred to other prisons throughout the state to “enhance safety and security,” officials said. The other 19 who were taken to Northern will have hearing for “administrative segregation placement.”
“Our correctional officers are answering the call to duty as first responders and do so without hesitation,” DOC officials said. “We will not tolerate this type of behavior and any inmate involved will be immediately moved to Northern Correctional Institution where we manage our highest level of supervision.”
The unrest came just hours after unions representing correction officers and other DOC employees expressed concerns over how the agency was handling the health crisis, which has killed 189 Connecticut residents as of Sunday.
Four inmates and the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association also filed a lawsuit Friday seeking the immediate release of vulnerable inmates, those near the end of their sentences and those being held on bond for misdemeanor charges.
Correction officers contend that the DOC has unused facilities that should have been re-opened to spread out the inmate population to help stop the virus which has sickened hundreds of thousands worldwide from blowing through the state’s prisons.