Hundreds of Inmates Riot at Arizona Prison, Officers Respond With 'Rubber Bullets and Pepper Spray'

Hundreds of inmates at a prison in Arizona have been involved in a riot, with corrections officers using "non-lethal munitions to gain compliance."

One prisoner told local media in an email that "tear gas, flash bangs [and] pepper spray" had been used to contain the disturbance. Eyman prison in Florence remains on lockdown after the incident on Wednesday.

Judy Keane, director of communications at the Arizona Department of Corrections, said no injuries among staff or inmates had been reported and an investigation had been launched.

She added that "several hundred inmates grouped together around staff and refused to disperse," but declined to offer a possible motive for the disorder.

"The Designated Armed Response Team and Tactical Support Unit responded to the incident and deployed non-lethal munitions to gain inmates' compliance with instructions and secure the inmates inside their dorms," Keane said in a statement. "At no point was public safety jeopardized."

Local radio station KJZZ quoted an inmate as saying: "They came in with tear gas, flash bangs, pepper spray and started shooting them at everyone. It was basically a war zone."

KJZZ added that inmates had recently complained about conditions inside the prison.

A Twitter user claiming to know one of the inmates wrote that "pepper balls" had been fired. "Rubber bullets used, everyone zip tied, involved or not," the person, whose name was given only as Suzanne, posted. She added that family and friends had been told not to expect communication over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Separately, two Arizona state prison employees were fired last week following an investigation into alleged use of excessive force at a prison in Buckeye.

Video allegedly showed a prison supervisor pulling an inmate to the ground while another staff member observed but did not intervene.

The Arizona Department of Corrections said it had now set up a hotline for inmates to report incidents involving staff.

The disorder at Eyman prison is the latest in a string of jail riots across the country.

Two guards and three inmates were injured after a riot broke out at Ware State Prison in Georgia in August.

A golf cart was set on fire and several windows were broken during the incident, but no major damage was reported, the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

The disturbance was caused by inmates at the prison in Waycross late on a Saturday night and officers deployed non-lethal ammunition to contain the riot, officials said.

jail barbed wire
Barbed-wire fence at a detention and correctional facility. There have been several riots at jails across the U.S. this year. David McNew/Getty Images

In April, more than 100 inmates at a facility in Washington state created a disturbance over an outbreak of COVID-19 in a low-security wing.

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

Pepper spray, sting balls and rubber pellets were used to bring the situation under control, the state department of corrections said. There were no injuries to inmates or staff.

Update 11/26/20 10:30 a.m. ET: This story was amended to include a statement provided to Newsweek by the Arizona Department of Corrections.