Demands for coronavirus testing, hot meals sparked riot at New Mexico jail

Demands for coronavirus testing, hot meals sparked riot at New Mexico jail
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A riot broke out at a New Mexico jail on Monday over prisoners' demands for adequate coronavirus testing capabilities and a reduction in hot meals caused by insufficient kitchen staff, officials said.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office and county officials told the Farmington Daily Times in a statement that officers responded to assist with a "disturbance" at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center on Monday after detainees refused their sack lunches and demanded a hot meal, while apparently assaulting an administrator.

SWAT teams were deployed to oust detainees from areas of the prison where the prisoners apparently set at least one fire using bedsheets and damaged a fire suppression sprinkler system.

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"Farmington Fire Department was dispatched. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and Farmington SWAT teams were also dispatched," a county spokesperson told the Times.

Officials with the sheriff's office added in a press release obtained by the Farmington Daily Times that the disturbance began shortly before noon, and ended around 2:00 p.m., local time. In the press release, the sheriff's office contended that "[a]t no time did detainees control any part of the facility."

"It is important to call this incident a disturbance, rather than a riot," the sheriff's office continued.

The sheriff's office went on in the release to contend that inmates who previously tested negative for coronavirus would be retested, per state guidelines, and said that the reduction in hot meals was unavoidable due to restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"[D]etainees have only received one hot meal per day. The reduction of daily hot meals is due to a lack of available detainees to cook the meals. There are two shifts of 6 to 7 detainees who work in the kitchen to provide meals for the facility. Low population in the facility has forced the temporary change," a spokesman for the sheriff's office said.