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Riot Breaks Out at Talladega Federal Prison

October 20, 1995

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) _ Inmates rioted at the federal prison outside Talladega on Thursday night and fires erupted in the complex, knocking out power in part of the prison, authorities said.

There was no immediate word from prison officials on how many inmates might be involved or the extent or cause of the rebellion.

State Trooper William Brasher said negotiators were summoned to the scene from Montgomery but it was not immediately clear whether there were any hostages. He said the fires knocked out power in part of the prison, and buses were being brought in to move many inmates to the county jail.

A spokeswoman at Citizen’s Baptist Medical Center in Talladega said five prison workers and one firefighter suffered injuries, including cuts, bruises and smoke inhalation. Three were released and the others were admitted, although none of the injuries was life threatening, she said.

Sheila Anderson, who was working in the prison, told CNN she heard a loud noise and took refuge with others in the prison chapel, where some inmates protected them. After seeing a gang of inmates with baseball bats, they then hid in the chapel storage room for 30 to 45 minutes before being rescued.

The prison, which was the site of a 10-day siege by Cuban detainees in a 1991 uprising that ended without the loss of life, is about 40 miles east of Birmingham.

Brasher said the disturbance began in what is known as the ``Alpha″ unit, which houses maximum-security inmates. The rebellion in 1991 also took placed in the Alpha unit.

Rickey Garrett was one of 250 people evacuated from a sports complex behind the prison about 7:30 p.m. _ about an hour after city police said the riot broke out.

The Talladega man said flames were visible from the road as authorities ushered people away from the scene.

``It was the first thing I noticed, the blaze,″ he said.

Others in the area said city streets were blocked off as police, deputies and state troopers arrived at the scene.

At 9:20 p.m., Trooper Byron Morris said the fires appeared to be contained and there was no threat of prisoners breaking through a cordon of officers around the prison. City police said there apparently had been no escapes.

In 1991, dozens of Cuban inmates at the prison rioted and seized 10 hostages in a bid to stop the deportation of 32 detainees to Cuba.

The standoff ended after 10 days when federal agents stormed the prison, rescuing nine prison workers still being held hostage. One hostage had been released earlier.

The Cubans were among thousands who arrived in this country during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, and some had said they would rather die than return to their homeland.

At the time of the riot, there were more than 100 Cuban detainees in the prison. The federal prison system later changed the way it handled the Cuban detainees, sending fewer detainees to Talladega and speeding up deportations.

It was not immediately known how many were being held at the prison Thursday or if they were a factor in the disturbance.

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