Prison scoured for weapons after melee

Correction officials launched a weapons search at the maximum-security prison in Walpole yesterday in the wake of an inmate disturbance that forced the entire facility into lockdown.

Inmates held in one block of the prison destroyed “anything that wasn’t tied down,” according to a source close to the episode, after a correction officer tried to take away a jury-rigged device used to heat water in the cells.

Correction officers evacuated the area as inmates smashed furniture, computers, lights and shelving in a destructive rage. The unit has a total of 28 prisoners, many of whom belong to a gang.

The Department of Correction’s Tactical Response Team is conducting a search within the portion of MCI-Cedar Junction where the disturbance took place, said department spokeswoman Diane Wiffin.

“The inmates could face internal discipline or criminal prosecution once investigation is complete,” Wiffin said.

The disturbance lasted less than an hour, she said. There were minor inmate injuries but no one else was hurt.

The incident was sparked when officers tried to take away a striker, which is a piece of metal connected to wires and placed in water. The homemade device is used to heat water, but it’s not allowed under prison rules.

“It’s a very dangerous job and we’re going to be vigilant,” said Steve Kenneway, president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union. “The public needs to understand we have mechanisms in place to take control back from the population. They shouldn’t be worried the whole prison going to be taken over.”



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