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Riot? Disturbance? What really happened at Kinross prison

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk
MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”";s:3:"uri


On September 10, there was an uprising at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, it’s the most serious incident inside a Michigan prison anyone can recall since the 1981 riot at what was then called Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson.

MDOC says there were no injuries to corrections staff or inmates. Approximately 250 prisoners have been transferred out of Kinross since the incident, the department says.

As first reported by the Detroit Free Press, there’s a dispute over just what to call the incident at Kinross.

According to MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz:

“This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, would be considered a riot. The dictionaries on my shelf and the dictionaries on your shelf would draw the same conclusion. Mr. Webster is on my side on this case. It wasn’t a riot. It was, though, a very serious situation.”

For reference, take a look at the legal definition of "riot,"per the Michigan Corrections Organization:

RIOTS AND RELATED CRIMES (EXCERPT) Act 302 of 1968 752.542a Riot at state correctional facility. Sec. 2a. A person shall not willfully instigate, cause, attempt to cause, assist in causing, or conspire to cause a riot at a state correctional facility. As used in this section, “riot at a state correctional facility” means 3 or more persons, acting in concert, who intentionally or recklessly engage in violent conduct within a state correctional facility that threatens the security of the state correctional facility or threatens the safety or authority of persons responsible for maintaining the security of the state correctional facility. History: Add. 1988, Act 393, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.

Gautz asserts that at no time did MDOC lose control of the facility:

“This was not a case where we had to take back the prison. The prisoners were back in their housing units, they were sitting on their bunks when we moved in with our emergency response teams to go in and remove the prisoners that were the instigators during a protest march earlier in the morning. ... While we were doing that, some of the prisoners in the other housing units just took that opportunity to break things in their housing unit.”

There has been a lot of publicity over the poor quality and shortages of food in Michigan prisons, ever since the state privatized prison food services in 2013.

Gautz says the events of September 10 were not specifically about food. Rather, they were part of a larger national effort to stage protests inside prisons across the country, on the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot in New York.

“They presented the staff with a list of 11 demands that they had, and ... they ranked food number eight on that list. So it was not over food, but it was one of the things that they were complaining about.”

Michigan Corrections Organization President Tom Tylutki joined us today to talk more about what happened at Kinross on September 10 ,and to look at some of the prisoners’ complaints.

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