Clallam Bay prison fight among 81 inmates remains under investigation

CLALLAM BAY — Clallam Bay Corrections Center is slowly easing restrictions on the prison population in the wake of a Wednesday evening brawl by dozens of higher-risk inmates that took seven warning shots to bring under control.

State Department of Corrections Center spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Friday that visitation today and Monday will be restricted to medium-security inmates while an investigation continues into the melee.

Visitation was not allowed Thursday through Saturday.

The prison was locked down from about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday afternoon.

Five inmates were injured and one person’s jaw was broken. No corrections officers were injured.

Prison officials said 81 close-custody inmates took part in the brawl.

Their security level is one rung below maximum and their supervision restricted.

“They represent a potential for violence or a disruption of the operation,” he said.

For example, offenders convicted of second-degree murder automatically serve one year under close custody, and of first-degree murder, at least two years.

Investigators began interviewing the 81 inmates Friday afternoon, Barclay added.

The West End facility houses about 825 offenders. Its capacity is 858.

No weapons were used in what prison officials said was a “multiple person disturbance,” Barclay said, distinguishing it from a riot in that there was not the kind of loss of control in which, for example, a cell block is destroyed.

The inmates, in the prison’s recreational yard for their daily activity period, ignored verbal commands, then did not respond to officers who waded into the altercation wielding pepper spray before at least two officers fired the warning shots.

“This was brought under control within minutes,” he said.

The cause appeared to stem from more than a dispute between a few offenders that got out of hand, Barclay said.

“We’re not even talking about two people with a group of people or individuals behind them,” he said.

“This is 81 individuals.

“There clearly was a deeper root issue.”

He said the incident could have grown out of a division among what officials call “strategic threat groups” within the facility, such as gangs, members of which can reunite once inside the prison and ignite old rivalries.

Those who allegedly participated in the brawl remained Friday under heavily restricted movement, under which they walk from place to place within the 39-year-old prison with a limited number of other prisoners, Barclay said.

There are more than 81 close custody inmates at the facility, Barclay said.

It also houses medium- and maximum-security offenders.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.