Staff, inmate injured in riot at Prince Albert, Sask., jail on New Year's Eve: documents

A riot broke out in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, in Prince Albert, Sask., on Dec. 31, 2022, documents show. (Olivier Plante/CBC - image credit)
A riot broke out in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, in Prince Albert, Sask., on Dec. 31, 2022, documents show. (Olivier Plante/CBC - image credit)

Four inmates from the jail in Prince Albert, Sask., were each charged with mischief after allegedly starting a riot on New Year's Eve.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety told CBC News in January that there had been a "disturbance" in one of the units of the Prince Albert Correctional Centre on Dec. 31, 2022.

But incident reports and officer notes, obtained through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request, suggest the ministry understated the incident: several inmates destroyed the unit and started fires, correctional officers and an inmate were injured, and the emergency response team was deployed to gain control of the situation.

"[The] situation was non-negotiable and deemed tactical," one officer wrote in their incident report.

Around 7 p.m. CST on the night in question, correctional officers ordered an inmate to lock up, but he refused, according to the documents. He threw several food trays on the floor. Several more inmates then advanced toward the officers. The officers tried to calm them down, but the inmates started circling them, the documents say.

The officers headed into the unit's sally port, a secured entryway to an enclosure. They pulled out pepper spray and the inmates backed away.

Within minutes, staff responded to the unit after receiving a call over the radio. Responding officers saw two inmates walking, throwing garbage around the unit. One of them was holding a broom handle and yelling at staff, the documents say.

The inmates did not comply with multiple orders to lock up, then threw "whatever they could find," according to one officer's incident report. The inmate with the broom handle started throwing apples at the officers, who retreated to the staff office for refuge.

From the office, one officer talked with that inmate, who was willing to talk and explained he was upset with the inmates' current living arrangements in the unit.

"He would start yelling at me when he thought we weren't understanding what he was saying," another officer noted in their incident. "He kept saying that we were treating him and his range like dogs and animals locked in cages."

The inmate continued throwing apples, they added.

The conversation was going nowhere and the inmate escalated the situation, the reports say. He and another inmate started trashing the unit: throwing around garbage, breaking windows and lighting a fire in one of the cells.

At this point, officers noticed that the four inmates were handing around "some type of liquid" and appeared to be "really intoxicated," according to the documents.

A second fire was eventually lit in a garbage can. The two fires set off the unit's sprinklers. The inmates used trays to pop off the sprinkler heads before starting to break the office window with the broken broom handle. Staff retreated as the inmates threw the flaming garbage can through the broken window.

"The staff office was no longer safe," an officer said in their report.

Staff were eventually directed to call in the emergency response team for help. When the inmates were made aware, they started pouring water on the floors and stairs, coating the surfaces with "slippery liquids," such as soap and toilet bowl cleaner, as well as wet towels.

Google Maps
Google Maps

The inmates eventually broke into a storage room, removing metal shelving and barricading the landings on the stairs. The mini fridge in the kitchen was also used as part of the barricade. Inmates tied off a gate with sweaters and barricaded it with more shelving.

The inmates would chant "West side" to the other inmates and they would echo the chant in reply, the reports say.

The emergency response team showed up around 9 p.m. CST and left with the four inmates around 9:30 p.m. CST, according to notes an officer took in real-time.

Maintenance arrived around 10 p.m. CST, spending the rest of the night securing the unit, the officer notes say. All inmates were removed shortly after midnight.

A comprehensive report written after the incident states staff suffered injuries from getting hit in the head by apples — though it did not specify how many people were hurt. An inmate also received stitches for a cut he received during the incident.

The four inmates were to be charged, according to the report, but information about them was protected under the FOIP Act.

The incident has been referred to police, the provincial government said in January.

The Prince Albert Police Service charged each of the four inmates with mischief in relation to the riot, a police spokesperson told CBC News Friday.