Inmates at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula turned violent Saturday and trashed their housing units, starting a small fire, smashing sinks, and breaking at least one window, Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz confirmed.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan Corrections Organization, the union representing corrections officers, said the incident was even more serious than that, with multiple fires set and two housing units left unlivable.
Gautz said the prison near Kincheloe was calmer this morning after about 150 of the roughly 1,200 inmates -- those seen as instigators of the disturbances -- were removed and bused away to other prisons.
No prison staff or inmates were injured, Gautz said, but non-custodial staff was evacuated Saturday afternoon and emergency response teams and other extra officers from nearby prisons were on the scene helping to restore order.
Anita Lloyd, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Corrections Organization, said "this was not an average, peaceful demonstration that anyone can brush off."
"Corrections officers are telling us inmates lit fires and barricaded themselves in housing units, two of which are now unlivable," Lloyd said. "More than 100 MDOC Emergency Response Team members and 190 additional corrections staff responded from around the state."
Also, "we’re not certain that this situation is completely over," Lloyd said late this morning.
"We are feeling lucky and thankful that no one was injured."
Events started to unfold Friday, when all kitchen staff and a smattering of other inmates with prison jobs refused to show up for work, participating in what was planned as a nationwide protest of prisoner conditions to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica Correctional Facility riots in upstate New York.
Michigan prison officials had prepared for possible widespread disruptions on Friday, but Kinross was the only state prison that took part in demonstrations, Gautz said.
Instead of regular hot meals, inmates at Kinross received bag meals all day Friday and again Saturday morning, he said.
The bag meals -- which Gautz noted were a result of the inmates' actions -- were among the grievances prisoners raised after about 400 of them peacefully marched and chanted in the yard on Saturday morning, he said.
Other issues raised were wages paid for prions jobs -- 74 cents to $3.34 per day -- and access to the commutation process, he said. Although the Level 1 and Level 2 security classifications for Kinross prisoners are low-security, many of them are serving life sentences for murder and other violent crimes.
The inmates were persuaded to return to their housing units Saturday afternoon after a meeting with top prison officials.
Corrections Department staff then began attempting to remove from the prison the 150 inmates seen as instigators, and that's when the violence broke out, he said.
Inmates used an electrical device to start a small fire in one units. Sinks were damaged and at least one window smashed, he said.
"Other than the few who damaged their housing area, the rest were all compliant and did as directed as we removed the instigators," he said. "Not a riot at all."
Detroit Free Press