DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — Shattered windows, broken bed frames and wires hanging from security cameras ripped off the ceiling.
That’s just some of the nearly $200,000 worth of damage inmates caused last month during an hours-long standoff with correctional officers at the Bristol County House of Corrections.
“It adds up really quickly,” Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux explained on Friday while giving 12 News a first-hand look at the aftermath.
Heroux said correctional officers were trying to move inmates to a different cellblock when more than a dozen so-called “ringleaders” refused to comply. Those ringleaders then riled up their fellow inmates, prompting the correctional officers to back out of the housing unit.
“This was a dangerous group of people,” Heroux said, adding that the officers were significantly outnumbered.
Heroux said the inmates destroyed the cell block, made makeshift weapons and barricaded the doors with mattresses. It was later discovered they lit several shower stalls on fire and ripped a heating unit off the wall to use as a battering ram.
The inmates handed over a list of demands during the standoff, which included installing televisions in their cells and lowering canteen prices. Heroux sent a letter in response, which he said was immediately torn up and thrown out the window.
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That’s when, according to Heroux, the standoff reached a “point of no return” as officers tried to “reason with unreasonable people.” The correctional officers eventually took back the housing unit, using gas and flashbangs to disorient the inmates and get past the barricades.
Heroux explained that officers had a “show” of force, but never used it since the inmates immediately surrendered. He showed 12 News body camera footage from the officers’ point of view, though it couldn’t be recorded since redactions for inmate privacy had not been made yet.
The video shows officers calmly leading handcuffed inmates out of the housing unit one by one. Heroux believes the footage highlights their professionalism throughout the ordeal.
The correctional officers were shuffling inmates around so their cells could be modified as part of Heroux’s overarching plan to reduce the risk of suicides and close the controversial Ash Street jail.
The modifications include installing toilets in cells, adding locks on doors and making the bed frames suicide-resistant. Heroux said nearly 50% of the prison’s cells don’t have toilets inside, meaning the doors can’t legally be locked.
He believes the main reason why the inmates pushed back was because they didn’t want to be moved to a unit with locked cells.
“This is truly a unique situation,” Heroux added.
It could be months before the housing unit is fully repaired, though Heroux said that process will begin this weekend.
Heroux said 20 inmates will be charged in connection with the standoff, though it’s unclear what those charges will be. The instigators have since been separated and transferred to other jails, while the remaining inmates were moved as originally planned.