LANSING, Mich. — Michigan officials are unsure whether to label a prison uprising last year in the Upper Peninsula as a “riot.”
Officials said inmates destroyed about $900,000 worth of state property at Kinross Correctional Facility in September 2016. Prisoners said the uprising was in response to low prison wages, low-quality food and other complaints.
Prison officials said the disturbance wasn’t a riot and that corrections officers didn’t lose control of the prison. But last month, an official labeled it a riot when rejecting a former prisoner’s compensation claim for personal items that disappeared during the disturbance, the Detroit Free Press reported .
Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said “words matter” and maintains the disturbance wasn’t a riot. He said that whoever filled out the summary paperwork on the former inmate’s claim used the wrong word and may not have been from the department.
Michigan State Police investigated the disturbance, which led to criminal charges against six former Kinross inmates, including a charge of inciting a riot. The charges against one of the inmates have been dismissed.
“I’m just confused by the facts,” said Mark Dobias, an attorney representing one of the defendants. “When the, quote, ‘victim’ denies it was a riot. … what is it, then?”
Michigan criminal law’s definition of a riot requires participation by “three or more individuals.” Prison officials identified about 250 inmates as being involved in the disturbance.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com