Inmates ‘riot’ at Inverness Jail as COVID-19 stokes tension

Coronavirus

In the middle of an outbreak affecting one in five inmates, some took over a dorm for three hours, injuring two deputies

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Whether it was a riot or a disturbance, tensions are high at the Inverness Jail in Northeast Portland after inmates took over a dorm and 2 deputies were hurt Sunday night into Monday morning.

It began around 11:40 p.m. and lasted about 2 to 3 hours, KOIN 6 News learned. The Portland Tribune reported inmates pelted guards with pieces of furniture. At least one other assault occurred as the inmates took control of the dorm, a medical unit housing approximately 60 inmates.

People with connections to those in custody said the tensions spiked over COVID concerns. In the last 2 weeks, more than 100 inmates have contracted the coronavirus in the 512-bed facility.

A woman whose husband is in custody told KOIN 6 News it started when “One inmate went to a guard last night and said the inmate didn’t do anything violent but just asked if he could talk to a captain or a sergeant because he had been asking for a COVID test.”

A sign outside the Inverness Jail in Northeast Portland, February 8, 2021 (KOIN)

The woman, who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, said things escalated. Her husband “said it wasn’t a riot, that no one was trying to hurt anybody or cause chaos. All they wanted was their basic necessities.”

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News corrections deputies asked several people to return to their beds but they refused. Two people were escorted out of the dorm and one resisted. Deputies used a Taser and pepper spray and called in the Correction Emergency Response Team.

The president of the Multnomah County Corrections Deputy Association, Mark Bunnell, called the incident a riot and said “it is a direct result of the floor being closed at the Justice Center. This has caused classification problems that have been going on for the last 10 months. We have asked repeatedly that they open those floors up to give relief from the problems caused by COVID-19 and broken classification system.”

Bunnell said sheriff’s staff have been mixing inmates in housing areas who normally would not be, the Tribune reported.

The sheriff’s office said this disturbance remains under investigation. Staff and inmates began getting the vaccine last week.

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