"Each attempt to bring the white and black inmates off lock-down was thwarted by physical altercations initiated by one or both groups. The continued violence perpetuated by either group cannot and will not be tolerated," Kirkland wrote to attorney John Houston Scott.
But Jim Chanin, the inmate's attorney who wrote the letter, said the prison should have been "extra vigilant" in conducting searches of inmates. "How can this happen? There are only two possibilities, either the searches were done inadequately . . . or they intentionally let weapons out there," Chanin said.
But Lt. Ben Grundy, a Pelican Bay spokesman, said only inmates in security housing are required to go through metal detectors each time they leave their cells. He said it's not required throughout the prison because officials want to keep inmates on their toes.
"If the inmates feel that we're trying to find metal they'll lean toward plastic or wood [to make weapons]," Grundy said. "So we' don't want to let them know what we're looking for."
As a result, correctional officers typically perform what are referred to as "hands on" searches, during which they pat down an inmate to search for weapons. Only if they suspect an inmate of possessing a metal weapon is a metal detector used, Grundy said.
Green, the corrections official, said the state may need to examine this policy. "We probably need to look at that and see if we would be better off having metal detectors for everyone," he said.
Neither Green nor other officials would reveal the precautions being taken at other prisons after the Pelican Bay disturbance that began about 9 a.m. Wednesday.
But there is no question that inmates knew about the melee within hours. A spokesman at one Northern California facility quipped that inmates sometimes have a better pipeline for news than guards.
"They knew about it around 1 p.m. Wednesday when the news reported it on TV," he said.
Tamaki reported from Crescent City and Gladstone from Sacramento. Times staff writer Kristi Garrett in Sacramento contributed to this story.
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Fatal Prison Shootings
Here is a list of fatal shootings of inmates by guards at California prisons in recent years.
Feb. 23 Miguel Sanchez, 38, was shot at Pelican Bay State Prison during a racially tinged riot.
May 7, 1998 Octavio Orozco, 23, was shot at Pleasant Valley State Prison during a fight with four inmates.
Feb. 21, 1998 Mark Anthony Perez, 25, was shot at Salinas Valley State Prison during a fistfight with another inmate.
Feb. 4, 1998 David Soloman Torres, 29, was shot at High Desert State Prison during a melee involving 18 inmates.
Dec. 26, 1997 John Pruitt, 29, was shot at High Desert State Prison during melee involving 30 inmates.
Sept. 27, 1996 Victor Flores, 22, was shot at the end of a riot at California State Prison (New Folsom) involving 200 inmates, after which 56 knives were found.
June 19, 1996 Refugio Ruano, 32, was shot at High Desert State Prison during melee involving 22 inmates.
Jan. 10, 1996 Raymond Nevarez, 30, was shot during a fistfight at Centinela State Prison with another inmate.
March 8, 1995 Tim Jones, 27, was shot at Calipatria State Prison during a fistfight with another inmate.
Dec. 30, 1994 Michael C. Colvette, 23, was shot at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility during a melee involving 12 inmates.
Sept. 30, 1994 Timothy Price Pride, 40, was shot at San Quentin State Prison during a death row fistfight.
Sept. 26, 1994 Juan Hernandez, 22, was shot at Centinela State Prison during a fight involving six inmates.
Sept. 21, 1994 Roger White, 27, was shot at Pelican Bay State Prison during a fight between two inmates in which White was wielding a steak knife.
March 26, 1987 Percy Kimbrough, 29, was shot when a racial fight broke out among nine inmates at San Quentin State Prison.
Source: California Department of Corrections