A five-hour standoff that began when about 80 D.C. Jail inmates refused to return to their cellblock from the recreation yard ended peacefully early this morning as the inmates voluntarily returned to their cells after jail officials agreed to meet their list of written demands.
The inmates produced the list after negotiations with jail officials, during which heavily armed squads of D.C. police officers ringed the Southeast Washington facility, jail officials said.
According to corrections spokesman Leroy Anderson, the demands included more food, more medical attention and no reprisals for last night's incident, according to Leroy Anderson, spokesman for the jail.
The inmates were evacuated into the recreation yard about 8:30 last night after a disturbance in the cellblock, in which several guards and inmates were injured.
After they were returned to their cells, some inmates began dropping burning paper into the hallway, and the cellblock was evacuated for the inmates' safety, Anderson said.
The recreation area is in the center of the jail and is ringed by cellblocks. Police and jail officials said the inmates in the yard were armed with homemade weapons including iron pipes and parts of broken chairs.
Anderson said that the inmates did not appear to have a leader, but that some inmates standing close to the jail's chief negotiator, Maj. Thomas Gaydos, made oral demands.
Before presenting their written list, Anderson said, the inmates, all of whom are assigned two to a cell, asked for relief from overcrowding, more access to relatives, improved visiting hours and more privileges, such as being allowed to watch color television longer.
In the earlier disturbance, six guards and at least four inmates were taken to D.C. General, mostly for treatment of minor injuries, authorities said. Dr. Hemant Joglekar, medical officer at the hospital, said all six guards had been struck with blunt instruments, three in the head. Five of the guards were released last night, and one was to be admitted for treatment of a knee injury.
The events leading to the standoff began about 4:30 p.m., according to Anderson, when an inmate in Cellblock North 2 threw a glass of milk at an officer. About two hours later, another inmate in the same cellblock refused a guard's order to return to his cell, Anderson said. As he was being led from the cellblock by a guard, another inmate tried to halt his removal and some pushing and shoving ensued.
Then, Anderson said, a number of the 108 prisoners in the cellblock stormed a glassed-in guard's station, and began beating on it. Additional officers were brought in, and the inmates were returned to their cells. Several then began setting the fires, which prompted the evacuation of the cellblock.
A total of 2,252 inmates were being housed last night at the jail, which was built to house 1,355 inmates. Last October, U.S. District Court Judge William B. Bryant allowed inmates to be placed two to a cell as a means of relieving conditions in which some inmates were being housed in gymnasiums and dayrooms. Bryant said recently that he may hold Mayor Marion Barry and other city officials in contempt if long-range plans are not made soon to alleviate the overcrowding.