An inmate at the Anchorage jail flooded his cell early Wednesday and when correctional officers went in to deal with the situation, two suffered minor injuries and were sent to the hospital, according to the state Department of Corrections.
The inmate was threatening to hurt himself, department spokeswoman Kaci Schroeder said in an email. She described him as intoxicated, unstable and mentally ill. The flooded cell was contaminated with urine and feces, according to the Alaska Correctional Officers Association.
The union described the inmate as "violent and combative." Five officers went into the cell to get the inmate out so it could be cleaned, the union said. The inmate fought them, the union said.
Officers slipped on the water on the floor, Schroeder said. One officer was punched in the lip and another pulled a muscle in his hand, she said. The union said one was actually kicked in the head and suffered a fat lip.
The officers didn't really slip, but rather were rolling around in contaminated toilet water with the inmate, said Brad Wilson, business manager for the correctional officers association. The disturbed inmate had smeared feces in his cell, and he was covered in it, making him hard for officers to handcuff, Wilson said.
The two officers were treated at the hospital but didn't need to be admitted, the union said. The one with the injured hand went home and the other one went back to work.
Other officers involved ended up covered in feces, the union said. While they were allowed to shower and change at the jail, low staffing prevented them from going home to do so, which used to be allowed, Wilson said. They had to wear inmate issue socks and sandals for the day, he said.
He flagged the incident as the latest example of the problems that can occur from what the union maintains is dangerously low staffing.
"The Department of Corrections management has cut staffing so low that if anything goes wrong, if injuries force additional drops in staffing as has happened with this incident, there is just no backup," Wilson said in an emailed statement.
Was staffing really low if five officers were able to respond to the disturbed inmate? All five weren't available immediately, Wilson said. Some had to first lock down their own housing units and leave them unsupervised, he said.
The department has disputed that staffing is too low.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER