Vt. jail chief says state’s cons caused Mass melee

WATERBURY, Vt.—Eleven of Vermont’s 101 inmates being held at a Massachusetts jail took part in a riot last week that began when inmates refused to go to their cells as ordered, Vermont’s top corrections official said Monday.

Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito apologized for the Vermonters’ role in the melee at the Franklin County Jail and House of Detention.

Two of the inmates involved were from Massachusetts, he said.

Pallito described the damage from flooding and the destruction of computers and a camera system as “costly.” He did not say who would be liable for the repair costs.

There were no injuries.

“We had no advanced notice that something was brewing and did not receive the usual clues such as grievances, calls from family members, (or) letters,” Pallito said. “In fact, our staff have made frequent trips to this site. Our initial indication from those (inmates) involved are that this event was not planned, but built on a desire to not lock-in. The participants stated that as time went on, the incident `just got out of hand.'”

The inmates will face charges in Massachusetts and they will likely be transferred to another facility within that state’s correctional system, said Pallito. The Vermonters will also face discipline from the Vermont Corrections Department.

The disturbance started at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday when the inmates refused to enter their cells as required and started throwing furniture, blankets and other items. The incident was put down by the sheriff department’s tactical response team by about 1:30 a.m. Friday. The inmates were then locked up in other areas of the jail.

For more than a decade Vermont has housed part of its prison population out of state. Currently about 600 of the state’s 2,100 inmates are being held in Kentucky, Arizona or Massachusetts.

Pallito said the Vermont inmates in Greenfield, Mass., facility are serving short sentences; in jail for lack of other housing; or are waiting for admittance to one of the Corrections Department’s programs or work camps.

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