Arkansas Governor Calls For More Safeguards At Prisons

Sep 29, 2017

Gov. Asa Hutchinson in a file photo from December 7, 2016.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’ governor called for additional safeguards at the state’s prisons on Friday after a string of violence that included three guards being assaulted by inmates and hospitalized a day earlier in separate attacks at two facilities.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was greatly concerned by the incidents Thursday afternoon in which two guards were assaulted by several inmates at the Varner Unit hours after a guard was assaulted by a prisoner in another incident at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker.

“The multiple incidences in the past few months of violence indicate there is a need for additional safeguards,” Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a statement released by his office. “I have met with (Department of Correction) Director Wendy Kelley and Board of Corrections’ Chairman Benny Magness, and I have asked Director Kelley for an action plan with options to address the problem and to ensure order and safety in the prison system. Director Kelley and her team have my full support as they address this challenge.”

A guard at Varner who sustained a single, unspecified injury in Thursday’s attack was treated and released. Another guard who suffered multiple lacerations was treated at an area hospital. The guard attacked at the Maximum Security Unit sustained multiple injuries to the face and head and was also hospitalized. The Department of Correction has not released additional details on the guards’ conditions. Several inmates at Varner who had barricaded themselves in a barrack after Thursday’s assault there were also hospitalized after officers used nonlethal force on them, authorities said.

The department has said the attacks appear to be unrelated.

The assaults follow two other disturbances at the Maximum Security Unit — also known as Tucker Max — in recent months. In August, several inmates held three guards hostage after snatching their keys and a Taser and a month before that, a guard fired warning shots into the air after two guards and an inmate were attacked there. Other incidents elsewhere include a disturbance where inmates broke windows and damaged windows at the Cummins Unit and the fatal assault of an inmate at another facility this summer.