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Officers use chemical agents to break up brawl at Folsom State Prison

Prisoners walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, in 2013.
Prisoners walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom, in 2013.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Authorities used chemical agents to stop a brawl at Folsom State Prison this week that sent five inmates to a local hospital, prison officials said Friday.

About 20 inmates were involved in the fight that broke out about 9:05 a.m. Thursday in one of the prison’s five medium-security housing facilities where program activities were being held, according to a news release.

“Correctional officers immediately responded to the area where the fights were occurring and gave multiple orders to stop fighting,” the news release said. “When inmates did not comply, responding officers deployed chemical agents to quell the violence.”

Five inmates were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the release said. They returned to Folsom, California’s second oldest prison, on Thursday. No staff were injured, according to authorities.

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Two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokespeople declined to respond to questions about the nature of the incident or which chemical agents were involved. State regulations allow CDCR officials to use chemicals as a use of force, if it is “the force option staff reasonably believes is sufficient.”

“Whenever possible, verbal persuasion or orders shall be issued prior to resorting to force and are required to be provided before controlled force is used,” the policy reads.

A retired teacher at California Men’s Colony, who did not want her name used, , likened the chemicals to Mace. She recalled a time when an inmate sprayed with the substance fell over and began frothing at the mouth. The prison guards used the chemical agent, she said, “whenever there was a disturbance that they don’t feel like they had control over.”

“It’s like you can find that anywhere because that’s just the way they do business,” she said. “They have to stop [disturbances] somehow, at least that’s in their minds.”


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