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Bannock County Jail uprising under control

Bannock County jail riot

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - UPDATED 7/12/18 7:00 p.m.: Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said investigators are currently reviewing video of the riot as evidence to piece together everything that happened.

Nielsen said the riot started about 8 p.m. when one male inmate broke the fire sprinklers inside his cell. The sheriff said he also got aggressive and was kicking the door and demanding to be let out. 

That got some other prisoners worked up and they started yelling and shoving things in the toilets to clog them. 

Backup was called and all Bannock County officers in the field were called in to help. Other agencies took their calls while the situation was handled. Nielsen said everything was under control and pretty well back to normal by midnight. 

"I am very fortunate that I have highly-trained officers that were able to protect themselves and other inmates," Nielsen said. "There's other inmates in that cell also. And when we have these kind of riots, very similar to prison riots, they can become deadly and so we were very fortunate in this particular one."

Of the approximately 85 inmates in the disciplinary pod, only about 22 or so got involved in the riot. 

"It's a disciplinary cell," Nielsen explained. "So the were in there for disciplinary actions for something they had done in the jail already."

When asked if it's maximum security, Nielsen responded, "Oh it's definitely max. This is the disciplinary max and so these guys are the bad of the bad."

Most of the damage done to the jail was water damage to the floors and walls, etc. Nielsen said there might be some internal damage to the pipes from the clogging, they're not sure yet. He said they are currently working on getting estimates for how much repairs will cost. 

"I've been sheriff for 22 years and we have had riots like this - this will be about our third," Nielsen said. "And two of them have been in the last five years."

The sheriff believes part of the reason for that is the current conditions.

"This is some of the offshoots of the overcrowding and a stressful situation," Nielsen said. "We can't point at any one agency or group or government and say they're not doing their part. The problem is, statewide, this is an issue. In Southeast Idaho, specifically Bannock County, but all of Eastern Idaho, we have a jail problem."

He said not only cause those tense conditions from overcrowding sometimes be contributing factors to things like riots, but with staff outnumbered, the outcome could have been a lot worse if all the inmates had decided they had nothing to lose and stood up against the officers.

Nielsen said they took each inmate out of their cells one by one to clean up and all but the instigator were cooperative. Nielsen said the cases judges and family members of those involved will be notified about what happened. 

As for the instigator, he was awaiting transfer to state prison. Nielsen said that has now been placed on hold pending charges related to the riot. He has been placed on his own in a holding cell and is under 24-hour observation. Nielsen said once the prosecutor determines the charges, the inmate's name will be released.

ORIGINAL STORY: A prisoner disturbance disrupted the Bannock County Jail disciplinary pod Wednesday night.

Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said in a news conference Thursday that all of the jail's prisoners were in individual cells at the time and not in a public area.

He said the primary instigator was a state male inmate awaiting transfer to prison. He was not identified pending the Bannock County Prosecutor's review of potential, additional charges. 

The incident began when the prisoner broke the fire sprinkler inside his cell and set off the sprinkling system. 

Altogether, between 22 and 26 inmates joined the fray, stuffing clothing and other items down toilets in an effort to clog the plumbing.

Jail personnel called in additional back officers to help get the situation under control. Nielsen said no one was injured, but there was significant damage to the jail.  The incident began around 8 p.m. and was under control by midnight. 

The sheriff said this was the third "riot" he's dealt with as sheriff. Two of the three happened within the past five years.   

Reporter Misty Inglet is following the story and will have more details coming up with Local News 8 at 5 and 6 p.m. and KIDK Eyewitness News 3 at 5:30 p.m. 

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