42 Inmates Hurt in San Quentin Prison Riot

From Associated Press

The largest riot at San Quentin State Prison in 23 years left 42 inmates injured Monday, three of them seriously enough that they were sent to outside hospitals, authorities said.

The fight broke out between white and Latino inmates about 8:40 a.m. in a medium-security dormitory-style unit that houses about 900 prisoners, said Vernell Crittendon, public information officer for the prison.

Prison officials said as many as 80 inmates in several buildings were involved.


It took about 50 officers armed with batons and pepper spray to quell the riot, which lasted six minutes, said Sgt. Eric Messick, a warden’s administrative assistant.

Three seriously injured inmates were taken to hospitals, authorities said.

“One inmate has a slash wound that goes from his ear all the way over to his mouth. It appears he was attacked by a razor blade attached to a toothbrush or a comb,” Crittendon said.

Authorities found five weapons in the unit: three soap bars in socks, a razor and a “small weapon made out of a metal tip, melted into the end of a pen,” Messick said.

Authorities had yet to pinpoint what sparked the riot, though they ruled out gang- or drug-related activity.

“We suspect the conflict will center around disrespect,” said Crittendon. “One group felt they were disrespected by another.”


The prison was locked down early Monday, and hundreds of bruised inmates were handcuffed as officers searched the unit and separated the groups.

Under lockdown rules, prisoners are confined to their quarters 24 hours a day and cannot enter the exercise yard.

About 40 inmates were awaiting a hearing to determine their culpability in the fight, officials said.

Crittendon said the last riot of this scale, in 1982, involved 1,000 men in the prison’s upper yard.