SAYRE — Beckham County Sheriff Scott Jay said Tuesday's riot at the North Fork Correctional Facility is the worst he has heard about since the private prison opened in 1999.
When he arrived at the scene, Jay said. “We saw mass fighting all over the yard.”
Sixteen inmates were taken to area hospitals to be treated for injuries, according to a statement released about 8 p.m. by the operator of the private prison, Corrections Corp. of America. One had been returned to the prison by evening. The statement also said that 30 inmates were treated at the facility.
No staff injuries were reported, the statement said.
Prison spokeswoman Michelle Deherrera said the riot broke out about 11:45 a.m. at the medium-security facility that houses inmates from California.
Officers contained riot
Jay said he saw weapons in use by the brawling inmates, but he couldn't identify what they were. Knowing prison culture, Jay said, he would speculate they were homemade weapons.
Smaller incidents have happened at the prison, Jay said, but he was only aware of one other time when local law officers were called in to help.
Officers from the Beckham County Sheriff's Department, and the Sayre and Elk City Police Department, as well as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, helped contain the riot.
Ambulance crews from nearby towns such as Elk City and Erick provided medical care.
At 5 p.m., after as many as a dozen patients had been taken to the hospital, seven ambulances remained lined up outside the gates.
Jay said at least 11 ground ambulance runs were made from the prison.
Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said at least two injured prisoners were taken by medical helicopter to Midwest Regional Medical Center. Midwest City police were asked to provide security until prison employees arrived, Clabes said.
Inmates also were airlifted to OU Medical Center, a spokesman said, but he referred further questions to corrections authorities.
“Right now, we don't know if this was racially motivated, or they had a beef with the facility or what,” Jay said.
Deherrera did not release any information about a possible reason for the riot.