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CNN Today

California's Pelican Bay State Prison Finds Security from Violence Can be Elusive

Aired February 25, 2000 - 1:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In California, two days after a riot left one inmate dead and dozens wounded, the Pelican Bay State Prison remains in total lockdown. The riot at the maximum-security prison had to be stopped by gunfire after 32 inmates were injured by makeshift weapons. The incident reminds prison officials, even in controlled environments, security can be elusive.

Reporter Mike Teacell (ph) has our story from KCRA in Sacramento.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TEACELL, KCRA REPORTER (voice-over): Watch how quickly serenity turns to chaos at Pelican Bay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down! Break it up!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TEACELL: This exclusive video was shot inside the maximum security prison in the weeks before Wednesday's deadly riot. This is video of what happens almost every single day inside this prison.

LANCE CORCORAN, CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS' UNION: Pelican Bay experiences approximately 400 incidents of violence per year.

This guy's about to get stabbed, right there.

TEACELL: Lance Corcoran is an executive with the California Connectional Peace Officers Association. He says protecting convicted maximum-security criminals from one another is a near-impossible task.

CORCORAN: No matter what we're doing at this point, they are not -- he has not stopped stabbing them. Just lost the weapon right there.

TEACELL: This graphic video was given to KCRA-3, Thursday, the day after officers used deadly force to stop a massive, bloody riot inside the Pelcon Bay state prison. It is video that shows just how hard it can be for correctional officers to protect themselves as well as the inmates from each other. CORCORAN: I think that if the officers had not been eventually been forced to use lethal force, I think the fatalities yesterday would have been greatly increased.

ROBERT MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: We're in control, and we know how -- and the system works.

TEACELL: Bob Martinez of the Department of Corrections declined our request to view this tape, but he agrees violence inside California's medium- and maximum-security prisons is a very phenomenon and one that isn't easily dealt with.

(on camera): Is it possible to eliminate violence between inmates inside of a medium- or maximum-security prison?

MARTINEZ: It's possible to maintain and minimize the violence, but if you're saying, am I stupid enough that you can do away with all violence, it's kind of like saying, can you change the character and trait and personality of an individual.

TEACELL (voice-over): Watch again at how hard bringing control out of chaos can be inside a maximum-security prison. A riot, seemingly subdued, is reignited with a single punch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down! Down! Break it up!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: There are more than 3,400 prisoners at Pelican Bay. They are considered some of the most dangerous in the California state system.

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