WESTVILLE – What Indiana Department of Correction officials are calling a “disturbance” – and others a riot – left a correctional officer injured Wednesday at the Westville Correctional Facility.
“There was a disturbance at the Westville Correctional Facility on April 22,” according to David Bursten, chief communications officer for IDOC.
It happened shortly after 2 p.m. and, “One correctional officer was injured and was taken to a hospital,” he said.
The officer “suffered non-life threatening injuries and spent one night in the hospital before being discharged on April 23,” Bursten said.
No offenders were injured, and the facility “remained secure,” he said.
“There were no escapes and there was no threat to the Westville community.”
However, a woman whose son is an inmate at Westville Correctional called the incident worse than described.
The woman, who requested anonymity, said on Wednesday, “a second and very serious riot happened at Westville. One guard was beaten severely and was airlifted to a hospital.”
Bursten said there has been “no other disturbance.”
The woman said, “A couple of hundred inmates overtook guards and fought them and took their keys. The inmates ran out of the buildings with anything they could use as weapons. Eventually when the police arrived in teams the inmates were put back into the dorms.”
While Bursten said an IDOC investigation into the cause of the disturbance is ongoing, the woman blamed it on IDOC handling of the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
“This is a direct response to a serious lack of communication and lack of compassion for the inmates dealing with this virus. These men are running scared every day all day long. They are someone’s family.
“They were handed a bar of soap and one mask at the end of last week. They want to have open and honest communication about where the virus is and what is being done.”
She said, according to her son, “Westville is broken and it is chaos everyday. The kitchen staff refuses to work because of the virus. When the news comes on, the guards turn it off. No communication leads to fear and anger boiling over. The inmates feel trapped and deserted. This will get worse if someone doesn’t step in to calm this situation down.”
In response to her concerns, Bursten said, “We understand family members are concerned. We are too. Each and every day, staff at the Westville Correctional Facility are working to maintain as safe an environment as possible for all offenders and staff members.
“The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have been significant, not just for correctional facilities, but our entire nation,” he said.
As of Thursday, IDOC was reporting a total of 278 inmates and 122 staff members that had tested positive at correctional facilities in Indiana, the majority in Westville. The agency said 2,688 inmates were in isolation statewide, the majority again in Westville; and another 261 were in isolation.
WCF also has one of three reported COVID-19-related deaths at IDOC facilities.
There 130 confirmed cases among inmates at WCF as of Thursday, IDOC reported, by far the most at any facility. There were 53 reported cases in Plainfield, 27 in Pendleton, 14 at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis, and 12 at Heritage Trail.
All other facilities had 5 or fewer cases, including 1 at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, and none at the La Porte Juvenile Facility or South Bend Community Re-Entry Center, according to IDOC.
A total of 1,498 Westville inmates were in quarantine, and another 18 were in isolation, IDOC reported.
Of the infected staff members, 24 were at Westville, according to IDOC.
There was a also disturbance at the Pendleton Correctional Facility on April 17 around 10:40 a.m., according to a statement from the state’s Joint Information Center.
The incident lasted less than three minutes and involved four offenders.
“While no offenders were injured, there were four staff members treated at a local hospital and released the same day with non-life threatening injuries,” the statement said.
IDOC has reported 41 inmates and 9 staff members at Pendleton have tested positive for the virus. The facility had 165 inmates in quarantine and 41 in isolation.
Bursten referred concerned persons to the IDOC website for information related to IDOC actions regarding the pandemic – in.gov/idoc/