$600,000 settlement to be paid to inmates injured in riot at Crowley County Correctional Facility

Inmates say prison operator ignored riot warnings

DENVER - A private prison company has agreed to pay a $600,000 settlement to 193 inmates who were injured during a bloody riot at the Crowley County Correctional Facility in 2004, according to lawyers representing inmates.

Inmates' lawyers say the Corrections Corporation of America, which operated the Crowley County prison at the time, agreed to the settlement to end several lawsuits.

Hundreds of inmates rioted at the Crowley County Correctional Facility on the night of July 20, 2004.

The riot started in the yard when a fight apparently erupted between rival prison gangs. The fighting then moved into the interior of the prison in Olney Springs, east of Pueblo. Hundreds of inmates refused to go back into their cells and some set fires.

The plaintiffs attorneys say that frightened inmates had warned CCA guards for days that inmates transferred to the Colorado prison from Washington state where planning a riot because they were angry about being moved far aware from their families.

Inmates said CCA did not do enough to prevent the riot and protect innocent inmates.

Inmates also said they were dragged through the water and forced to sit soaking wet in their cells, until law enforcement the stopped the rioting.

"We weren't treated as humans, we were treated more as animals -- animals probably get treated better," said former inmate Ross Nuanes, who was among those who sued CCA.

After CCA lost control of the prison, scores of law enforcement officers and special forces units from across the state raced to the prison to help stop the disturbance and regain control.

When the riot ended, dozens of inmates were injured. Five of the six living facilities had suffered significant damage, some areas were determined to be uninhabitable.

 

After the riot, half of the inmates were transferred to other facilities.

The Colorado Department of Corrections issued a report saying the prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was plagued by high staff turnover and was slow to fix problems pointed out by inspectors, according to 7NEWS. 

CCA owns more than 60 facilities nationwide, including four in Colorado. The Colorado facilities are Bent County Correctional Facility, Huerfano County Correctional Center, Kit Carson Correctional Center and the facility in Crowley County.