AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - The Airway Heights Corrections Center has inmates locked up in their cells because of a gang related fight involving more than a dozen prisoners on Sunday.
When rival gang members shoot and stab each other they're punished by being sent to prison, so when gang-related violence happens behind bars, prison officials really have to really hammer the problem to keep the institution from spiraling out of control.
The Airway Heights Corrections Center doesn't have the luxury of locking up rival gangs in different housing units. The prison keeps the peace with tough punishments for inmates who misbehave but, on Sunday, even the threat of solitary confinement couldn't keep tempers under control.AHCC lockdown
"On the walkway in front of the unit several fights broke out . It escalated quickly, about 16 offenders were involved," AHCC superintendent Maggie Miller Stout said.
Corrections officers raced to the yard and tried to pull the fighting inmates apart.
"They did not respond immediately to staff directions to cease and desist and lay down, some chemical agents, some OC, was used to encourage them to do so and the fight was broken up in very rapid order," Miller Stout said.
The 16 inmates involved were taken to the special management unit prisoners call the hole. They know when they're in the hole, they can't watch TV or get items from the commissary and they are locked in their solitary cells 23 hours a day.
It's a swift form of justice the majority of prisoners appreciate because it keeps them safe while they're behind bars.
"I think the offenders trust us to do the right job. They know what to expect from us. They have seen the staff in action when these incidents have occurred before and they know we'll take control and protect them from each other," Miller Stout said.
The medium security prison will be in lockdown for the next several days to allow tempers to cool down and let investigators figure out who -- and what -- started the fight.
That in turn means all inmate visits have been canceled and that creates peer pressure among the offenders themselves not to let bad blood spill over into a full blown confrontation.