Inmates break windows, set fires in riot at Kansas prison

Close to 50 inmates on Thursday night participated in a riot at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, breaking windows and setting fires, The Associated Press reported

According to the wire service, the riot began about 3 p.m. in a medium security holding facility, and some prisoners had either given up or gone back to their cells by 9 p.m., said Randy Bowman, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections. 

Though it is unclear what motivations prompted the riot, the disturbance comes amid the spread of the coronavirus. Prisons have been identified as potential hotbeds for outbreaks for the disease, because inmates live in close, confined quarters. 

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The Lansing facility has come under scrutiny in the past month as the corrections department reported 14 staff and 12 inmates tested positive for COVID-19. 

Bowman said the riot began when prisoners refused to go back to their cells after they were given orders to do so. Fifty inmates participated at first, but throughout the night, about 20 to 30 prisoners participated. By 1 a.m. on Friday, all participants were secured in their cells. 

The Hill has reached out to the Kansas Department of Corrections for comment. 

News of the riot comes as prison inmates have increasingly become a point of contention in local and federal government during the coronavirus pandemic. Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have called on states to release prisoners who have preexisting conditions, rendering them most vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

In late March, California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomSenior citizens deserve better than to be left in isolation Supreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Supreme Court denies Illinois churches' request for action after state eases restrictions MORE (D) announced that he would release 3,500 nonviolent offenders over concerns of COVID-19 outbreaks in detention facilities. 

On Thursday, Patti Stockman, the wife of former Rep. Steve StockmanStephen (Steve) Ernest StockmanInmates break windows, set fires in riot at Kansas prison Wife of imprisoned former congressman cites COVID-19 risk in plea to Trump for husband's freedom Consequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears MORE (R-Texas), asked President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE to pardon him and release him from his 10-year sentence, so that his time in prison “does not become a death penalty” amid the coronavirus outbreak.