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Tasing of inmate sparks five-hour inmate takeover at UP prison

Matthew Ansley

The state has temporarily relocated 236 inmates from an Upper Peninsula prison, after some prisoners took over a housing unit at Chippewa Correctional Facility Sunday night. 

The inmates did widespread damage to the unit, including broken windows and surveillance units and  ripped-out sinks, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The five-hour takeover occurred after an inmate involved in a fight was tased and taken to the hospital.

Byron Osborn is with the Michigan Corrections Organization, the union that represents corrections officers.

He says inmates rushed the officers on duty and threatened them, saying something along the lines of "you took one of us out and now we're going to take you out." The officers followed protocol, he says, by locking down the unit and retreating until they had reinforcements, which eventually included Michigan State Police.

"That (tasing after a fight) is a very frequent occurrence, and health care frequently has to come in and check them when they're restrained," says Osborn. "So this is not anything new. It shouldn't have really been something that triggered the response that it did."

Osborn says inmates are under greater than normal stress because of COVID-19 protocols in the prisons, and the state's correction system is severely short of staff. But he doesn't think either of those factors played a role in the incident.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz says it will likely take at least a week before the housing unit is habitable again. 

He says the department is working to identify those who participated in the takeover, so as not to punish those who went back to their cells as directed -- but it will be difficult to do because the surveillance cameras were destroyed shortly after the takeover.

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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.