New jail mail policy sparks inmate unrest

Inmate protests against a new mail policy sparked a mini-riot inside the Sullivan County Correctional Facility on Monday night. It was quickly quashed with pepper spray, jail officials said.

Three weeks ago, county jail inmates learned they will no longer be allowed to receive letters in envelopes after Jan. 1, officials said. Only postcards would be allowed, according to the new policy. The switch is intended to prevent illegal drug deliveries.

In an attempt to voice disfavor, about 75 inmates shook and banged on bars, kicked the cell walls and screamed, Capt. Steve Williams said Tuesday.

“It didn’t seem coordinated,” Williams said. “It was mostly just yelling and screaming.”

The protests, which broke out in three adjoining cells with 25 inmates each, began around 10:30 p.m. and lasted roughly 40 minutes, Williams said.

Inmates ignored repeated requests to calm down, Williams said. That’s when the in-prison version of a SWAT team was called.

Called the Special Operations Response Team, the team is trained to raid cells and stop riots. On Monday, the team rushed the cells while donning gas masks and armed with pepper spray, Williams said.

The protests ended 10 minutes after the SORT teams entered the first cell.

No one was injured, Williams said. Charges are pending.


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