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Lawmakers Plan Hearings on Fatal Prison Riot

From a Times Staff Writer

A joint legislative committee plans to examine why a deadly prison disturbance broke out last Wednesday at Pelican Bay State Prison and whether it could have been prevented.

Prison officials say Latino inmates, armed with makeshift weapons, attacked black prisoners in an exercise yard, prompting officers to open fire on the group.

A 23-year-old inmate from Los Angeles was shot to death and 15 other prisoners were wounded in the shooting at the North Coast lockup. Scores of inmates suffered cuts and other stab wounds in the fighting, and 89 weapons were found afterward.

State Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Joint Committee on Prison Construction and Operations, said he is troubled that so many weapons were found.

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“I’m not convinced that this happened all of a sudden without any knowledge” by prison authorities, Polanco said. The hearing is expected to be held in about two weeks in the Capitol.

After a briefing by corrections officials, Polanco indicated that he believes the state’s revised policy on the use of deadly force seems to have worked. “It [lethal firepower] wasn’t the first reaction” as in some past incidents, Polanco said.


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