Newspaper: Log contradicts Kansas prison disturbance account
El Dorado ? An emergency log book suggests that inmates fought during a south-central Kansas prison disturbance that also included a fire and at least one prisoner obtaining a weapon, contradicting a state version that no violence erupted, according to a newspaper report Thursday.
Kansas prison officials had reported that no violence occurred and no weapons were accessed by inmates during the hours-long incident June 29 at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. But The Kansas City Star reported that a log book it reviewed shows there were two fights involving separate groups of inmates, at least one inmate had a weapon and at least one fire broke out inside the prison.
As the head of the Kansas Organization of State Employees union representing prison workers, Robert Choromanski has said the disturbance began when some prisoners refused to return to their cell houses. He said inmates controlled parts of the prison that included the gym, the yard and the kitchen.
Corrections spokesman Todd Fertig said this week that no department weapons ever were possessed by the inmates, though the newspaper said he did not respond to questions about why the department initially said no violence had occurred.
“I don’t work at the facility,” he said. “I’ve never seen the log.”
The disturbance broke out at a time the state’s prison system grapples with significant staffing shortages as well as inmate transfers to El Dorado. The department said there were 94 staff vacancies at the El Dorado lockup as of July 5; Choromanski insisted the vacancies were as high as 125.
“When they (inmates) see that there’s not enough correctional staff guarding the place, they’ll utilize the weak points and jump on it,” Choromanski said.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat and a member of the Joint Committee on State Building Construction, said she was skeptical from the beginning of the corrections department’s account of the El Dorado incident.
“It’s imperative that we tell the people the truth … because there may be changes that need to be made, but we’ve got to know what the problems are before we can come up with solutions,” Kelly said. “This is a public safety issue for the general public and for the staff in these facilities.”