By Ryan Fatica
Hundreds of prisoners in the Cook Unit of the Eyman prison in Florence, Arizona reportedly surrounded prison staff and destroyed prison infrastructure during an uprising Wednesday afternoon.
According to Arizona Department of Corrections spokesperson Judy Keane, “several hundred inmates grouped together around staff and refused to disperse.” According to one prisoner who spoke with KJZZ, windows were broken during the uprising and the unit looked like it had “exploded.”
Prisoners at the facility and their family members told local media that prisoners were moved to the recreation yard with their hands zip-tied behind their backs while officers searched their cells. “They came in with tear gas, flash bangs, pepper spray, and started shooting them at everyone,” one prisoner wrote in an email to KJZZ . “It was basically a war zone.”
In response to the uprising, the facility has cancelled Thanksgiving video visitation. According to a message sent to family members, the facility is on a “hard lockdown” due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
Over 400 prisoners at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic and one has died, according data maintained by the prison. Although the prisoners’ motives for acting remain unclear, several family members who spoke with KJZZ expressed concerns about conditions at the facility.
The Arizona State Prison Complex at Eyman is Arizona’s single largest facility, housing over 5,400 people. The facility holds those classified as medium and high security, including Arizona’s death row prisoners. The Cook Unit is the prison’s largest, with a daily population of almost 1,400.