LARNED — Law enforcement agencies from three counties, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Highway Patrol responded Tuesday night after a riot broke out at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility. The call for assistance went out around 9 p.m. Although there was extensive property damage to all five housing units in the Central Facility, Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett reported that the facility was secure by 11:30 p.m.
“At that time there were no staff injuries reported and all inmates were accounted for,” McNett said Wednesday morning.
One inmate was treated off-site for breathing issues, unrelated to the fights, said Kansas Department of Correction spokesman Samir Arif.
The situation began around 8 p.m. when multiple inmates starting fighting and became disruptive, Arif reported.
Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility changed its mission last year from housing mentally ill inmates to preparing young male offenders for re-entry into society. KDOC contracts with Barton Community College to offer vocational training and other education there. While KDOC has not yet dropped “mental health” from its name since the transition, mental health services are now at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
“Currently the Central Unit has five housing units with a capacity of 66 medium-security inmates per housing unit,” McNett said. “Inmates on the Central Unit are now housed two men to a cell. Previously when mental health was their mission, cells were limited to one inmate.” The Central Unit is one building with separate housing units within situated like spokes on a wheel around a central control rotunda.
“The riot was isolated solely to the Central Unit,” McNett said. The West Unit, which houses minimum security inmates, was not involved.
“The fights were contained to the living unit pods. Some inmates were not responsive to officer orders and began trying to break windows and furniture within the living unit,” Arif said. “Area law enforcement was called as a precaution to provide perimeter security. At no time were inmates out of their living units or near the perimeter of the facility.”
Officers from the LCMHF began methodically locking down inmates.
Assistance from the Pawnee County Sheriff’s Office was requested around 9 p.m., McNett said. Six PCSO officers responded to the scene, including the K-9, Noa.
Other responding agencies included the Ford County K-9 Unit, Ford County Sheriff/Dodge City Police Department Special Response Team (SRT) and the Stafford County Undersheriff. Larned State Hospital Safety and Security were placed on standby. Additionally, numerous EMS/Fire Department personnel were placed on standby at the University of Kansas Health System - Pawnee Valley Campus in Larned. A fix wing aircraft was on standby at the Larned airport.
Barton and Edwards County law enforcement offered to respond but were advised to stand down.
The PCSO and the other outside law enforcement agencies were initially tasked with securing the outside fences of the facility. The Pawnee County and Ford County K-9 officers and Ford County SRT were deployed within the facility to assist the Kansas Department of Corrections SORT team to regain control and secure the housing units.
At approximately 11:30 p.m., LCMHF Warden Don Langford, McNett and LCMHF administrative staff did an on-site walkthrough of the LCMHF Central Unit housing units.
“Warden Langford and the entire LCMHF staff should be commended on how they swiftly and directly addressed the situation,” McNett said. “Their prompt response to the inmates’ inappropriate behavior prevented further escalation and prevented possible injuries to staff and inmates.”
Following a debriefing, PCSO staff left LCMHF at approximately 1 a.m. KDOC Enforcement Apprehensions and Investigations will be handling the investigation. Once the investigation is completed the case will be submitted to the Pawnee County Attorney’s Office for review of possible charges.
Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood said, “The staff at Larned did an exemplary job of rapidly bringing this situation under control. Their professionalism and determination should be commended.”
The last riot at LCMHF occurred December 30, 2001, and was restricted to one housing unit. Two inmates, Kerry D. Arnold and Larece T. Hutton, were ultimately charged at the time due to their actions.
Incitement to Riot is defined by Kansas Law as “by words or conduct knowingly urging others to engage to riot under circumstances which produce a clear and present danger of injury to persons or property or breach of the public peace.”
Riot is defined by Kansas law as five or more persons acting together and without lawful authority engaging in any use of force or violence which produces a breach of the public peace, or threat to use force or violence against any person or property if accompanied by power or apparent power of immediate execution.
The crime of Incitement to Riot is a Severity Level 8 person felony and carries a sentence between 7 and 23 months, depending on a defendant’s criminal history.