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Inmates Rebel Over Food, But Negotiate and Surrender

March 7, 1991

EDEN, Texas (AP) _ Federal inmates complaining they don’t get enough vegetables took over part of a private prison in protest and held authorities at bay with kitchen utensils and baseball bats until giving up today.

The food complaint was similar to one raised during an inmates’ protest about two years ago, said Roy Burnes, president of the Eden Detention Center Inc.

″It seems again to revolve around food service. Last time, they wanted more Mexican food. Now, they want more greens - lettuce, fresh salad,″ he said. ″Aside from that, they claim their feeding time is taking too long.″

He said the kitchen feeds 479 inmates in one hour and 15 minutes. He said grievances also include high commissary prices and slow postal service.

The protest ended about 11 a.m. today when the inmates gave in to authorities who insisted they would not negotiate unless order was restored.

″The inmates must submit to an official head count and shakedown for weapons,″ Burnes said.

Inmates had selected five representatives to talk to a representative of the federal Bureau of Prisons, which has a contract with Eden Detention Center to hold short-term prisoners.

The protest began Wednesday when about three-fourths of the 479 inmates refused to come in from an outdoor recreation area, said Burnes.

By nightfall Wednesday, the inmates had taken control of a food service building. There were food fights, and several small fires broke out, Burnes said.

He estimated damage at about $250,000.

One inmate was taken to a hospital after he suffered an apparent heart attack, Burnes said.

In May 1989, inmates staged a one-night demonstration to protest food and other conditions at the prison. Then, most of the inmates were illegal aliens serving up to 18-month terms for federal crimes.

In July 1987, inmates of the center signed a letter complaining of violations of civil rights, Bureau of Prison standards and sanitation. Prisoners said in the letter that they were offered real meat only once a week. They also complained of a lack of recreation facilities.

Eden is a town of about 1,200, located southeast of San Angelo.

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