ALDEN, N.Y. (WKBW) — Almost 40 inmates refused the post dinner lock-in order at the Erie Country Correctional Facility in Alden on Monday night, according to the Erie County Sheriff's Office. The union says the situation was brewing for about two weeks when inmates in the housing unit lost use of the microwave.
The stand-off lasted a few hours.
“They used tables and chairs to barricade themselves within the housing area, and openly began to break tables and fashion weapons in front of our staff,” said CSEA Erie Corrections Unit President Marc Priore.
Priore said staff noticed a thin sheet of metal was missing from the microwave, and then learned inmates made a weapon.
He said the staff does not know when the metal went missing.
“The problem was is that you have as many as 48 inmates in this housing area at any given time, and why it became such a volatile situation I believe is that we didn’t really have anything to go on as far as knowing that these specific inmates in that housing area were responsible for the contraband going missing to being with,” Priore said.
He said some inmates were upset about losing microwave privileges because they said they weren't involved. He said inmates also warned they may take group action.
He added that staff eventually asked the correctional facility's administration to return the microwave, fearing for their safety.
“The risk, of, that it brought to my staff members safety did not outweigh the reward of having these guys go without a microwave any longer," Priore said.
The sheriff's office said no officers or inmates were injured.
“There appears to have been some ring leaders associated with this, those individuals are going to be disciplined and potentially could be brought up on criminal charges I've been told," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "It sounds like there was never a situation where the rest of the facility was at risk. It was not a complete takeover of the jail it was one pod."
Priore said about three dozen staff were ready to respond, as were Erie County Sheriff's SWAT teams.
He said staff made announcements over the PA system to urge compliance.
“We were prepared, we were just waiting for the administration to give us the go ahead to enter, and use force if needed, but fortunately the inmates ended up complying at the 11th hour,” Priore said.
Priore said those involved were moved to special housing units at the facility, or transferred to the Erie County Holding Center.
The Sheriff's Office said its Bureau of Investigations is looking into the incident, and it notified the NYS Commission of Correction.
The Sheriff's Office said 42 inmates were in the housing area at the time.