More Than 100 Prisoners Riot And Set Off Fire Extinguishers Over Coronavirus Outbreak at Monroe Correctional Complex

More than 100 inmates at a facility in Washington state created a disturbance over an outbreak of COVID-19 in a low-security wing of the prison.

Prisoners began to demonstrate in the recreation yard at Monroe Correctional Complex on April 8, setting off fire extinguishers.

Pepper spray, sting balls and rubber pellets were used to bring the situation under control, the state Department of Corrections confirmed. There were no injuries to the inmates or staff involved.

The incident is believed to have been caused by an outbreak of COVID-19 among six men within the facility's Minimum Security Unit.

The men were transferred to the prison's isolation unit and are being monitored by a health care team.

"The Department of Corrections continues to work at protecting medically vulnerable incarcerated individuals," the DOC said in a statement.

Monroe Correctional Complex
An aerial view of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington state Wiki Commons/SounderBruce

"All individuals in the housing unit where the first positive individuals were previously housed continue to have no symptoms of illness or disease (asymptomatic) and are wearing surgical masks for further protection.

"The Department of Corrections takes the safety and security of its correctional facilities, staff, and incarcerated individuals very seriously. An internal investigation will be completed."

Monroe Correctional Complex opened its Minimum Security Unit in 1997 and it houses approximately 450 minimum custody male inmates.

The U.S. correctional system is facing an "unprecedented" threat from coronavirus, according to prison and civil liberty watchdogs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and The Sentencing Project have called on officials to release elderly and at-risk prisoners — those who do not pose a risk to the general public — nationwide in preparation for the anticipated coronavirus stress on the prison system.

Overcrowded facilities with relatively poor sanitary conditions offer perfect environments for coronavirus to spread. As more people contract the virus, prison staff levels are likely to be stretched further and conditions could deteriorate.

"As the United States continues to combat the global health pandemic rapidly spreading throughout the country, it is critical that we not forget the millions of people working and detained in jails, prisons and detention centers," a coalition of groups wrote in a letter to President Trump in March.

"The public health concerns presented by coronavirus in confined spaces creates an urgent need to ensure the health of staff and those incarcerated, particularly those who are elderly and those with chronic health conditions."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.

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