DELANO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Ten inmates were stabbed during a disturbance Thursday morning at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano. The seriously-hurt prisoners were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.
"We had a riot erupt, the rough numbers at this time is approximately 40 to 50 people involved," prison spokesman Lt. Jeff Smith said. He also called the situation "isolated, contained and controlled."
Prison officials said several fights broke out among groups of inmates in the B Facility yard, described as a large recreation area for maximum-security inmates.
The injured prisoners were apparently hurt by weapons made behind bars. "Several inmate-manufactured weapons were recovered," Lt. Smith said, adding the injuries were stab wounds.
Correctional officers got things under control in five to ten minutes, Smith said. The prison says staff used pepper spray, tear gas and less-than-lethal direct-impact rounds to stop the fights.
"The best description of (the impact rounds) is it looks like a half handball taped to a little plastic projectile," Lt. Smith explained. He says it feels like getting punched.
No prison staff were injured in the incident, according to Smith.
The officer said it's estimated some 150 inmates were in the yard at the time, and 50 of those may have been involved in the fights. Lt. Smith couldn't say yet the total number of injured inmates. Some are being treated at medical facilities at the prison, in addition to the ten taken to hospitals.
"Three of those are listed in critical condition," Smith said about the hospitalized inmates. "And the rest are listed as serious."
The names of the injured inmates were withheld, and prison officials are investigating which inmates were involved. The prison didn't say what started the brawl, but Smith says they have some guesses.
"Most of the time when incidents like this do happen in our general population yards, it is gang-related," Smith said.
The officer also said the fights started at about 10:00 a.m. in both sides of the B Facility yard, and that could be a sign that the disturbance was pre-planned.
As of Thursday afternoon, Lt. Smith said prisoners had been returned to their housing areas, and officers were interviewing inmates and going through evidence.
Smith said there was an even larger disturbance about 14 months ago. He described the riot in January 2012 has having some 300 inmates involved. This latest incident involved fewer prisoners, but included serious injuries for some.
"There were significant injuries in this as far as being sustained by a few of our inmates," Lt. Smith said. "So, they're out and getting the medical care they need, and hopefully everything comes out OK."
The prison said today's information is considered preliminary. More updates could be provided later as their investigation continues.