Staff, inmate injured in riot at Prince Albert Prison, Sask., on New Year’s Eve: documents
Four inmates from Prince Albert, Sask., jail have each been charged with mischief after allegedly inciting a riot on New Year’s Eve.
The Saskatchewan Department of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety told CBC News in January that on December 31, 2022, there had been a “disturbance” at one of the units at Prince Albert Correctional Center.
But incident reports and official notes obtained through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request suggest the department underestimated the incident: Several inmates vandalized the unit and set fires to law enforcement officials and one inmate was injured and the emergency response team was deployed to bring the situation under control.
“[The] The situation was non-negotiable and deemed tactical,” one official wrote in his incident report.
Around 7:00 p.m. CST on the night in question, correctional officers ordered an inmate to lock him up, but documents say he refused. He threw several food trays on the floor. Several other inmates then approached the officers. Officers tried to calm her down, but inmates began circling her, the documents say.
Officers entered the unit’s sally port, a secured entrance to an enclosure. They pulled out pepper spray and the occupants backed away.
Within minutes, after receiving a call over the radio, unit personnel responded. Responding officers saw two inmates walking and throwing trash around the unit. One of them was holding a broomstick and yelling at staff, the documents say.
The inmates disobeyed multiple confinement orders and then “threw whatever they could find,” according to an official’s incident report. The inmate with the broomstick began throwing apples at the officers, who retreated to the staff office to seek refuge.
An officer spoke to this detainee from the office, who agreed to speak and said he was upset with the current living conditions of the detainees in the unit.
“He started yelling at me when he thought we didn’t understand what he was saying,” another officer noted in their incident. “He kept saying that we treat him and his range like dogs and animals locked in cages.”
The detainee kept throwing apples, they added.
The conversation went nowhere and the inmate escalated the situation, the reports said. He and another inmate began trashing the unit: throwing garbage, smashing windows, and starting a fire in one of the cells.
At that point, officers noted that the four inmates were “passing around some kind of liquid” and appeared to be “really drunk,” according to the documents.
A second fire was eventually started in a garbage can. The two fires triggered the unit’s sprinklers. The inmates used trays to detach the sprinkler heads before beginning to smash the office window with the broken broom handle. Staff backed away as inmates threw the flaming garbage can through the broken window.
“The staff office was no longer safe,” one official said in his report.
Employees were eventually instructed to call the emergency response team for help. When inmates were made aware of this, they began pouring water on the floors and stairs, and coating the surfaces with “slippery liquids” such as soap and toilet cleaner and wet towels.
The inmates eventually broke into a storage room, removed metal shelving and barricaded the landings. The mini fridge in the kitchen was also used as part of the barricade. Inmates tied off a gate with sweaters and barricaded it with more shelves.
The inmates chanted “West Side” to the other inmates, and they repeated the chant in response, the reports said.
The emergency response team arrived around 9:00 p.m. CST and left with the four inmates around 9:30 p.m. CST, according to real-time notes taken by an officer.
Maintenance workers arrived around 10 p.m. CST and spent the rest of the night securing the unit, the officer’s notes said. All occupants were removed just after midnight.
A full report written after the incident says staff suffered injuries from being hit in the head by apples – although it didn’t say how many people were injured. One inmate also received stitches for a laceration he sustained during the incident.
The four inmates should be charged, the report said, but information about them is protected under the FOIP law.
The incident was handed over to the police, the provincial government said in January.
The Prince Albert Police Service accused each of the four inmates of riot-related mischief, a police spokesman told CBC News on Friday.