Florida officials say no 'riot' at prison in Hamilton County

Dozens of Florida Highway Patrol troopers respond to prison near Jasper

By Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JASPER, Fla. - Florida Highway Patrol troopers from across North Florida responded Friday to a report of what one agency described as a "riot situation" at the Hamilton Correctional Institution Annex.

A couple hours later, the Florida Department of Corrections told News4Jax "there was no riot," and that no staff or inmates were injured in it what it called a disturbance. 

"During outside recreation, there were approximately 100 inmates on the recreation field when a number of inmates began acting out and became noncompliant," FDOC spokeswomen Michelle Glady said. "Institutional response teams immediately responded, and due to their swift and methodical approach, the situation was brought under control with no injuries to staff or inmates."

According to the FDOC's report on the incident, it began when an inmate was pepper-sprayed. Other inmates “took exception,” and started destroying property, broke broomsticks and started to surround corrections officers in the yard. The officers used more chemical agents and retreated through a gate. The prison’s Designated Armed Response Team went in, and when they rolled a couple of flashbangs (concussion grenades) at the inmates, they all got down on the ground.

Response teams from two other prisons also responded, along with more than 60 FHP troopers. They were not called by DOC, but by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. 

News4Jax learned that about 25 troopers from Lake City, 25 more from the Jacksonville district and others from Tallahassee were sent to the state prison just outside Jasper. The Jacksonville contingent includes the FHP's Special Response Team.

Glady said that outside law enforcement responded "in an abundance of caution," but troopers never they never had to enter the secure areas of the prison.

Sky4's pilot, flying over the prison about 1:45 p.m. counted more than 60 FHP cruisers and he could see prisoners lying on the ground in the prison yard, surrounded by law officers.

The DOC statement sent at 2:11 p.m. said "the event is over and everything is under control. There is absolutely no indication that this incident occurred as a result of any national movement or organization."

According to the DOC, the incident was quelled in about two hours.

Records show Hamilton Correctional Annex houses 1,408 prisoners and the neighboring Hamilton Correctional Instruction has a capacity of 1,177 more.

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