The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Phoenix went on lockdown for nearly two weeks after a fight involving multiple prisoners resulted in one man receiving minor injuries, according to officials and family members.
Inmates described the incident as a “riot,” according to two family members of prisoners who spoke with Phoenix New Times.
The altercation occurred on the morning of May 17, according to a press release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The statement added that correctional officers “immediately responded and contained the incident.”
One inmate was injured and was transported to a hospital to treat minor injuries. No prison staff members were injured.
Andre Thomas, a spokesperson for FCI, said he did not know how many inmates were involved in the fight, the reason for the fight, or the nature of the inmate’s injuries.
Thomas also said he did not know how long the prison went on lockdown, a condition in which inmates are confined to their cells for most of the day, with limited access to programming, amenities, and outside communication.
Thomas did not answer when the prison last went on lockdown and for how long.
FCI Phoenix, located in Anthem, is a medium-security facility that houses about 1,000 male inmates.
Two family members of inmates separately contacted New Times about the lockdown, both stating that they had not heard from their loved ones for more than a week. (New Times is not publishing the names of either source out of concern for the privacy of their family members in prison.)
Both family members also said their loved ones described the incident that led to lockdown as a riot, rather than a fight. One inmate’s mother said her son was receiving medical care when the alleged riot broke out. He told her it involved a “couple hundred” inmates.
Thomas disputed that characterization. Asked if a riot led to the lockdown, he said, “Absolutely not.”
Both family members said they heard back from their incarcerated family members for the first time on Tuesday, 12 days after the fight.
The sister of an inmate said she received between two to three emails a day from her brother through a prison messaging system before his communications went dark on the May 17.
When the woman called the prison, the man who answered the phone told her to “be patient,” she said. She received an email from her brother on Tuesday and read a snippet to New Times during a phone interview: “Oh my goodness. What the hell. Lockdown this whole time. Baloney sandwiches and no out-of-cell time at all. Today, they started letting us out.”
She also said her brother called the incident a “massive riot,” but did not go into detail.
The other woman said she grew worried after she stopped hearing from her son.
“Both my daughter and I called the prison and they gave us no information,” she said in an email to New Times.
Several minutes after ending a phone conversation with New Times, FCI Phoenix spokesperson Thomas called back to clarify that the facility does not use the term “lockdown,” despite him using the word multiple times before.
“We may modify our programs or our operations,” he said. “We don’t consider a lockdown a lockdown.”