USA: California prison staff accused of setting up 'gladiator fights' by sending rivals to yard together

Prison guards in California have been accused of orchestrating ‘gladiator fights’ between inmates by knowingly releasing rival prisoners into the yard at the same time.

Relatives of inmates at California State Prison in Corcoran have been protesting for weeks outside the facility, against what they say is inhumane practice by guards who ‘like to see bloodshed’.

The prisoners say the problem is related to the Norteño-based Fresno Bulldogs gang, which refuses to make uphold a truce with rivals, USA Today reported.

One inmate told the website anonymously that the Bulldogs were not keeping their side of the peace treaty and last year started attacking people in the yard, leading staff to separate its members from other prisoners.

Those protesting outside the facility confirmed that several inmates from rival gangs had attacked in each other in Corcoran.

As a consequence, roughly 350 inmates have been placed on a ‘modified program’ which includes restrictions to visitation and yard time privileges.

But the inmates’ rights organization Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) alleges that since the modified program began prison guards have been simultaneously releasing groups of inmates they know are in conflict.

The guards anticipate that the men will likely brawl and later use the ‘gladiator fights’ as justification for continuing the modified program, according the IWOC.

The organization also alleges that some of these orchestrated fights were filmed on a cell phone and the footage was uploaded online.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has denied that correctional officers are purposely setting up the brawls.

The agency said its priority is to create a safe environment at the prison for all.

‘CDCR is charged with providing a safe and secure environment for everyone who lives, works and visits its institutions,’ Terry Thornton, spokesperson for CDCR, told USA Today.

‘Furthermore, the rehabilitation of individuals entrusted in the department’s care is also a priority. CSP-Corcoran officials are doing all they can to return Facility 3C to normal program.

‘No one knows when the roughly 350 inmates on Facility 3C will be returned to normal program but we hope it is soon,’ he added.

But inmates are complaining that life inside the prison is increasingly unsafe, and their families and friends are worried.

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