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POLICE RECLAIM STATE PRISON AFTER 2 DAYS OF FIRES, RIOTING

SHARE POLICE RECLAIM STATE PRISON AFTER 2 DAYS OF FIRES, RIOTING

Armed police fired tear gas and moved in on the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill Friday morning, reclaiming the prison from inmates who took hostages and rioted for two days.

Half of the fire-scarred prison was damaged or destroyed by the time officials took control of it after 9 a.m. and freed the last of the hostages.At least 60 people were injured in the latest inmate takeover, which came a day after a seven-hour uprising.

David Owens, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, said no deaths were reported but earlier a Cumberland County medical authority said one person was dead. Corrections spokesman Kenneth Robinson said one inmate was taken out of the prison in a state of cardiac arrest and pronounced dead but was revived.

Robinson said the last two hostages walked out unharmed from the facility at around 9 a.m. Another staff hostage, whose presence in a cellblock was not revealed by the inmates, also was found and released.

Five hostages in all had been taken with one being released at midnight in a show of good faith by the prisoners. The other hostage was rescued at daybreak when state police stormed one of the cellblocks.

A fire in a coffee-and-tea manufacturing facility at the prison continued to blaze hours after the disturbance ended as officials searched the grounds for inmates and staff. Inmates were being corralled in two recreation fields and four cellblocks.

Thirty-seven of the 60 injured people were taken to hospitals and three of them were in critical condition, officials said.

Police finally took control of the 52-acre facility after reclaiming four cellblocks overnight and a fifth cell-block _ the kitchen facility _ after the 7 a.m. assault.

One policeman who took part in the assault said inmates were carrying homemade knives and hurled objects at police _ equipped with riot gear _ who entered the building.

"There was a lot of destruction, everything was trashed," said the police official.

The latest disturbance began shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday when some 500 state and local police were called to the crowded medium-security institution.

Prisoners in two cellblocks, taking advantage of faulty locking mechanisms or using keys retained during a disturbance Wednesday evening, began releasing other inmates and setting fires, authorities said.

Officials said 12 of the 31 buildings in the prison had been destroyed, including the educational building, the gymnasium and about eight dormitory-style housing units.

Firefighters, guarded by armed state troopers, entered the prison to battle the flames. By dawn the fires had subsided and a smoky haze blanketed the area.

The new disturbance came just hours after prison Superintendent Robert Freeman met with six inmates to try and learn what motivated Wednesday's unrest, which involved about 1,200 of the prison's 2,607 inmates and six cellblocks.

Freeman said the inmates apparently misunderstood new policies and believed a popular family visitation day was being canceled and that access to medical care was being curtailed.

"There (were) more inmates involved than (Wednesday) night, and the fires are more extensive," Assistant Superintendent John Palakovich said, noting, however, that about 300 inmates refused to take part in the disturbance and gathered in a separate part of the prison.

Gov. Robert P. Casey, who cut short a visit to his Scranton hometown to return to the Capitol in Harrisburg, across the Susquehanna River from the prison, issued a statement praising the police and corrections officers.