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Video Shows Prison Riot That Led to Lockdown at Federal Correctional Institution in Miami

The April 1 riot involved over 100 inmates and the discovery of over 100 weapons

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Exclusive video obtained by NBC6 of a prison riot involving more than 100 inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami is bringing up staff security concerns.

The prison remains on lockdown. Multiple sources from inside the facility told NBC6 that more than 100 weapons were found after the riot that sent four inmates to the hospital. 

The video is shaky and short because cellphones are banned in prison. However, multiple sources confirmed that the video shows a portion of the April 1 riot.

Sources told NBC 6 that the riot took place in the prison yard. The video shows one inmate with what appears to be a horseshoe in his hand and others with their hands behind their backs — a sign that they’re holding a weapon, according to prison experts.

“There is no question that there are some issues that the administration needs to look at and I am certain they are looking at,” said James Upchurch, a prison expert and consultant.

Upchurch has more than 40 years of experience working in corrections, including as the Chief of Security Operations for the Florida Department of Corrections. NBC6 sent him a copy of the video to review. 

“It’s not uncommon for them to have a large number of inmates in the recreation yard,” Upchurch said.

FCI Miami is “a low security federal correctional institution with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp," according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“They are designed to provide for open movement,” Upchurch said. “They have inmates in open dormitories as opposed to cells in single or double bunk cells. They are present on the recreation yard in large numbers. It’s a lot more of a modified camp style.”

Which, he said, can lend itself to a riot. The last documented riot at FCI Miami was in 2016.

“That’s a pretty good record,” Upchurch said. “In my experience running, operating prisons like this in the past, it’s not terribly unusual to have situations like this where you have a falling out between various groups, gangs if you will.”

What he finds concerning is the number of weapons that sources report were found after the riot. 

“Discovering a hundred weapons in a search following something like this would signal the administration. It would signal me, if I were the administrator, to look into my search processes,” he added.

A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, gave a similar recommendation in 2019. 

 “Increase number of searches for weapons, cellphones and contraband,” the report said. 

It’s unclear if the prison has made any changes since then because the prison administration declined to answer multiple questions from NBC6 and instead sent this statement:

“For privacy, safety, and security reasons, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not comment on matters related to pending litigation, ongoing legal proceedings, or ongoing investigations," the statement said in part. "Also, we do not comment on the conditions of confinement for any inmate or discuss whether a particular inmate or staff member is the subject of allegations, investigations, or sanctions, nor do we discuss specific security practices or internal procedures."

The BOP also confirmed in the statement that FCI Miami was "placed on modified operations" on April 1.

"Modified operations refer to a temporary change to some institution operations that may include inmate movement, programs, and/or services. Wardens may establish controls or implement temporary security measures to ensure the good order and security of their institution," the statement read. "Ordinarily, institutions remain on modified operations in order to thoroughly investigate an incident and ensure the safety of staff and inmates.”

Sources told NBC6 that during the investigation, inmates identified as leaders in the riot will be moved to other prisons across the country. At FCI Miami, the lockdown remains in place, which means inmates are kept in their rooms and there are no visitations or phone calls with the inmates. 

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