Lewis: ‘The situation was contained early as we prepared to take over’
By Othor Cain
In the early morning hours of Monday, July 30, during a routine security check, officials at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond, Miss., found one individual to be uncooperative.
Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis said that inmate was placed in isolation but somehow managed to escape and created a disturbance for the other 183 inmates locked in POD C. This inmate also released other inmates to help with the riot.
Kendall Johnson, 25, who has been locked up for nearly a year on possession of marijuana charges and contempt of court charges according to Lewis was at the heart of the disturbance. “After Johnson began his tirade, other inmates acted and were able to hold detention officers at bay with a fire hose,” Lewis said. “The incident ended without injuries.”
Ending without injuries was a welcomed sign for officials considering they found broken sinks, a $400,000 control panel shattered, and weapons, like shanks and other items. The inmates used metal objects pulled from the ceiling and doors in an attempt to escape.
The situation lasted nearly
12-hours, but Lewis maintains it was under control before 10 a.m. “We had a plan in place all along, we just wanted to make sure we could implement it. One of our major concerns was the safety of all of the other inmates, especially those with medical conditions,” Lewis said. “We were fortunate to have the assistance of so many other agencies.”
Some of the other agencies that responded were made up of law enforcement officers from local, county and state departments from around the metro area.
Lewis said that was the spirit of teamwork. “I’m grateful for their assistance, this is like one big family, when one member is in trouble you can count on the other members to step in and help, and that is exactly what happened today,” he said.
Officials turned off the water and air in POD C to bring the situation under control. POD C was totally destroyed.
“If you can envision what Katrina looked like, then that is what Pod C looks like”, Lewis said.
Hinds County supervisors met to discuss the riot, relocating the inmates, and repairs to Pod C. They were led on a tour of the destroyed unit along with members of the media Monday afternoon.
“The brighter side is we get an opportunity to rebuild. To rebuild it correctly and to make sure that when its done right, it’s done to the highest standards of security,” said Hinds County Supervisor, Robert Graham.
The family of the inmate who Lewis called the aggressor said they don’t believe Johnson is responsible for the riot.
“He’s been locked up in this jail so many times he’s never did anything like this. That’s why I don’t understand,” said Johnson’s mother, Delores Walker.
“He was beating on the solitary door, but I guess he was making too much noise so they came and handcuffed him and he said they jumped on him. He says he has bruises on him”, Keyonna Johnson, the inmate’s sister said.
“He was the aggressor with the guards. During a security check he breached that security check,” Lewis said.
There has been debate, and concern about problems at the Hinds County Detention Center for years. Some of that debate has been centered around problems with the design, cell doors that won’t lock, and manpower. County officials said they are just glad this riot was brought under control without serious injuries or loss of life.
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson issued a statement saying he had been in contact with Hinds County officials and steps are being taken to handle city inmates housed at the Raymond facility.