At least five inmates were injured on Friday, August 23, after a riot broke out at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, San Diego County. Two of the inmates suffered serious injuries and were brought to the hospital via air ambulances.
Approximately 80 inmates were involved in the riot, although there were about 100 in the yard at that time. Corrections officers demanded that inmates cease rioting, and when they did not respond, “less than lethal” rounds were fired to quell the disturbance.
The incident was only the latest in a series of riots occurring at the prison in just the past year. The prison, built in 1987, houses roughly 3,800 inmates – although it was only designed to accommodate 2,200, and has about 1,850 employees. Security levels at the facility include minimum, medium, and maximum.
Three Serious Injuries in April
In April, three inmates suffered serious injuries after seven prisoners ganged up on one inmate in the facility’s C yard. A fourth inmate suffered less serious injuries. The initial victim of the attack, surrounded by seven inmates, managed to fight back with a homemade weapon. The injuries included stab wounds to the head, chest, and abdomen.
50 Inmates Riot in February
In February, approximately 50 inmates were involved at a riot at the prison which left 10 people seriously hurt. The riot took place in the facility’s A yard. Numerous fights broke out on the morning of the riot, while medium-risk inmates were outside for recreation. Inmates refused orders to stop fighting from corrections officers, and the latter used pepper spray to stop the disturbance.
One inmate was flown to a hospital via helicopter, while another received severe head injuries. According to prison officials, numerous homemade prison weapons were found at the scene.
Two Inmates Stabbed in December Riot
A riot in December left two inmates stabbed in the facility’s C yard after a riot in which about 25 prisoners participated. This altercation involved maximum-security inmates. Again, corrections officers ordered the inmates to stop fighting, and when they did not respond, pepper-spraying ensued. Five “shanks,” or prison-made weapons, were discovered in the yard by investigators after the fighting ceased.
Near the Mexican Border
Otay Mesa is an unincorporated part of San Diego County not far from the Mexican border. The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility is just one of several incarceration and law enforcement facilities in Otay Mesa. Others include the George Bailey County Detention Facility; the Corrections Corporation of America's San Diego Correctional Facility; the East Mesa Reentry Facility, operated by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, and a relatively new law enforcement training complex used by the FBI, US Customs Service, and local police.
Officials are not commenting on the cause of the frequent rioting at the Donovan facility. However, overcrowding is likely a factor, as the prison’s gymnasium and recreational areas are currently used to house inmates. The facility has about 1,600 more inmates than it was designed to hold, and nothing good come from such overcrowding.
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