GREAT FALLS – The “N” pod is still on lockdown after inmates rioted in the Cascade County Detention Center on July 28th.
During a press conference on Friday, Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards says the investigation is taking more time than they expected. At the time of the riot, the jail population was 484 inmates.
Edwards believes that an assault in the early morning hours might have caused the tensions to grow within N pod.
“We were trying to move some inmates out of there and another inmate went to attack the inmate we were moving. Than a detention officer was assaulted in that as well,” Edwards says.
He says he does not believe the assault directly led to the riot, but it did not help the riot from starting.
At the time of the riot there were 43 inmates in a pod that is only supposed to hold 28.
Detention Center Commander Dan O’Fallon says they have been able to rule out some of the inmates from being involved, after watching video of the morning of July 28th.
Six inmates went into lockdown in their cells when the riot broke out. They still have to track the movements of 37 other inmates who were in N pod at the time of the riot.
“We have two different cameras, two different views of the housing facility. We will watch one camera for 20 minutes because that is how much time we had before they broke the cameras,” O’Fallon said,
O’Fallon says during the riot they lost the TVs, the cameras, all the panels, and the entire sprinkler system was also destroyed.
The inmates also broke the doors and O’Fallon says they have only been able to temporarily fix them at this time.
As of right now the damages are estimated to be $22,300, and that number could go up as repairs start.
“Some of those, even if they are deemed not a suspect, it could turn that they turn into a suspect or an active participant because they may have incited a riot. They may have encouraged people to riot through their actions or their communication with each other. So there is a lot to look at,” Edwards said.
Edwards says that the inmates who were a part of the riot have been moved around within the jail as they investigate.
“We are working very closely with the Cascade County Attorney’s Office on possible charges. No charges have been officially filed as of yet,” Edwards said.
Edwards says there is no end date in set for when the investigation will be over but he believes the riot started due to overcrowding.
As of Friday, the jail is down to 445 inmates but that it still 100 more than where they should be at.
“We have had a couple of transports of federal inmates out. We have taken many of the inmates that were here as Department of Corrections holds, we have filled up Hill County, Fort Benton, Broadwater County, Roosevelt County, and we have filled up CCAS with as many people they can take,” O’Fallon said.
O’Fallon says that the jail is as low as it can go right now and tensions have cooled recently – though they still have a long way to go to fix the overcrowding problem that has plagued many of Montana’s detention centers.
Edwards says the mandate of not taking non-violent misdemeanor offenders is working, but says there has been a lot of misconceptions about the mandate that was put into place.
“If a person is a public safety risk, violent, or a felon, they are coming to jail. Those misdemeanors that maybe did not fit the criteria of coming to jail under this mandate, if they start harassing law enforcement or causing problems, we’ll make room for them,”
Edwards says this is not a free for all and officers have the right to bring them up to the jail.
Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News