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U.S. Prison in Lompoc Remains on Lockdown

June 03, 2003|John Johnson | Times Staff Writer

The high-security federal prison at Lompoc remained on lockdown Monday after a fight between inmates and guards that apparently started when security personnel entered a housing unit to investigate reports that inmates were intoxicated.

Eight guards and one inmate received medical treatment at Santa Barbara County hospitals after the Sunday night incident, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. Spokesman Dan Dunne and a guards union representative said the injuries were minor and most of the injured were quickly released.

Dunne said the FBI has been asked to help determine the cause of the fight in hopes of quickly returning the prison to normal operating status. Dunne declined to speculate on the cause, but a guards union representative, Frank Campo, said he believes "it all stemmed from inmates' being intoxicated."

Campo, president of Local 3048 of the American Federation of Government Employees, said a guard in one of the housing units noticed that several inmates appeared to be drunk. The guard called for assistance from a supervisor, but the men were attacked when they entered the unit to investigate, Campo said.

The guards suffered bumps and bruises, Campo said.

Ingredients to make prison brew, such as fruit and yeast, are available in the dining hall, although inmates are not allowed to have them in the housing units. Normally, Campo said, guards would be able to spot contraband, but budget cuts have thinned guards' ranks in the housing units, cutting down on "walk around" supervision.

Dunne also declined to comment on staffing issues in the federal prisons. "If they're claiming staffing is an issue, that will be a part of our review," Dunne said.

Asked if alcohol is a problem in the federal prison system, Dunne said, "All I can say is, if we are aware of a situation like that we would take immediate action."

The prison houses 1,349 inmates. Dunne said he did not know whether the local press was correct when it reported that the facility was 300 inmates over capacity. But he acknowledged "we double bunk in many institutions" because of crowding.

Lompoc does not have the worst of the worst, but Dunne said the inmates have been convicted of serious offenses.

The worst recent incident occurred in 1997, Campo said, when an inmate stabbed a guard to death.

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