Six prisoners who started an inmate protest at the Promontory pre-release facility at the Utah State Prison on Monday have been placed in a maximum security unit and could lose their opportunities for parole.
Some 140 inmates refused to return to their dormitories for a 4 p.m. head count Monday. Inmates were protesting a crackdown on the rules prohibiting them from freely moving between dorms, Utah Department of Correction spokesman Jack Ford said.The protest prompted prison officials to call in the corrections department SWAT team, which used a flash-bomb to disperse the gathering of inmates who staged a sit-in in a common room outside the 400-bed minimum security prison.
Fred VanDerVeur, the Department of Corrections' director of institutional operations, said the disturbance lasted only about 20 minutes and was under control.
The protest was not violent and no one was injured, Ford said.
Promontory prisoners have a lot to lose by staging such a protest, Ford said. Most of the 400 inmates are only a few weeks from parole and many have work release jobs during the day. Any disciplinary issues could affect a prisoner's status with the Board of Pardons and Parole.
The board will evaluate the status of each of the six who initiated Monday's disturbance.
"They could easily lose those privileges," Ford said.
But the privilege of moving freely between Promontory's 50-bed dormitory's has never actually existed, Ford said. Officially, the rules at the privately run facility reflect those at the state prison, he said.
"In every other part of the prison if you're in block A, you stay in block A," said Ford.
At Promontory, which is owned and operated by Management & Training Corp. of Ogden, those rules had been relaxed. That put the facility in violation of prison policy.
But newly named Promontory warden Jimmy Stewart, a former corrections department warden, made the decision to strictly enforce the policy restricting movement, Ford said.