Headingley uprising ends without force

Headingley Correctional Centre was back under full control early Saturday, after 25 inmates ended a disturbance without causing injuries or substantial damage to the prison.

Greg Skelly, superintendent at the provincial men’s jail just west of Winnipeg, confirmed that the uprising ended shortly after midnight when the inmates returned to their cells from a common area of one section of the facility. He said no force was needed or used to put an end to the incident.

Unlike riots or major disruptions that have occasionally occurred at Headingley, such as an incident among inmates last month that caused about $26,000 in damage, this latest confrontation was what Skelly described as minor.

“I’m not calling it a riot. I’m calling it 25 guys who refused to lock up in their cells,” he told the Winnipeg Sun.

“This was unusual. I hesitate to call it a disturbance. There were no threats to staff, no injuries to staff or inmates and no damage.”

There was, said Skelly, “really nothing broken, except for bed sheets and that sort of thing.”

The inmates had barricaded themselves into an area of the cell block at about 2:30 p.m. Friday, when they refused to abide by a lockdown. Though crisis negotiators moved in to try to quell the disturbance and a prison emergency response team stood by, officials said the remainder of the jail — while locked down — was not directly affected by the incident.

Skelly refused to speculate publicly on the cause of the dispute, saying that he and other prison officials have yet to fully investigate it.

“It would be premature to specify what happened,” he said, also without giving details on what caused the confrontation to last about 10 hours.

Negotiators were in place about an hour after the disruption began, he said.

“It took us a fair amount of time to get some compliance and co-operation. We finally achieved that,” Skelly said.

“This was a long time. It took much longer than these things tend to. We had the whole place locked down, which means that our staff members had to keep a lid on the rest of the correctional centre. And they did an outstanding job.”

Overcrowding

The unit where the disturbance occurred remained under a lockdown several hours after the incident.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said by e-mail that it’s “too early to say what further charges” any inmates might face because of the incident.

The disruption came a couple of days after about 200 corrections officers, sheriff’s officers and probation officers rallied at the Manitoba legislature to demand that the provincial government construct a prison to hold at least 750 inmates. The corrections officers charged that prisons across Manitoba are severely overcrowded, causing danger and stress for themselves and inmates.

The Headingley facility currently has about 745 inmates.

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