A group of Idaho inmates staged a sit-down strike at a private Louisiana prison over the weekend and won a surprising concession: more veggies.
Officials at the Basile Detention Center agreed to increase portions of vegetables at meals after hearing the inmates’ demands.
“We took a look at them, and we agreed with them that in this particular case, the kitchen shift officer did not give them enough,” said Floyd Antley, operations manager for Louisiana Corrections Services Inc., which owns and runs the prison. “So we made sure that that didn’t happen again.”
Antley said 13 to 14 Idaho inmates participated in the sit-down protest, although an Orofino, Idaho, woman whose fiance relayed the news to her over the phone said she heard there were 40 or 50.
“The whole thing is very volatile,” said Tena Nielson, whose fiance was transferred to Louisiana from Orofino three weeks ago. “The conditions are, just, they’re not good. And they’re just asking for trouble.”
But families agreed that Saturday’s protest was peaceful.
Prison officials in both states said complaints are to be expected as 300 Idaho inmates adjust to an entirely new environment far from their families and home state.
Mark Carnopis, Idaho corrections spokesman, said, “Even geographically, it’s a heck of a lot different. There’s lots of mud, lots of rain.”
Louisiana is the third state to receive Idaho convicts for lack of cell space in Idaho.
Antley said the inmates were in a recreation yard after dinner Saturday evening when the group refused to come back into the dormitories and instead sat down.
“The officers just said ‘OK’ and they backed off and just left them there,” Antley said. “And apparently after the Louisiana mosquitoes got hold of them for about an hour, they decided to change their tactic. They decided to go back into the dorms.”
After the incident, the prison’s warden and deputy warden met with an inmate representative and discussed the complaints.
Some had concerns about the dormitory-style setup at Basile, which has bunk beds for 60 men clustered in an open room. Showers and toilets also are open, and guards, some of whom are female, can see into all areas.
Antley said Idaho inmates wanted “to put up partitions and curtains.”
“That’s a security risk, and we’re not going to do that,” he said.
, DataTimes MEMO: The Idaho Spokesman-Review is researching an article relating to Idaho’s prison inmates. If you live in North Idaho and have a relative in the Idaho prison system and are willing to talk to a reporter, please call Betsy Z. Russell at the newspaper’s Boise bureau at (208) 336-2854.