BUCKEYE, Ariz. (AP) – Two state prison guards were taken hostage by inmates early Sunday, and negotiators were called in to try to defuse the situation.

One inmate attacked a guard shortly after 5 a.m. during breakfast preparations, then met up with another inmate in the prison yard and the two gained access to the officers’ tower, said Jim Robideau, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

A male correctional officer taken hostage was injured, said Cam Hunter, a department spokeswoman. Officials did not release details of the injury, but said the other hostage, a female correctional officer, was not believed to be hurt. Two other officers and a staff member were injured in a scuffle, Robideau said.

All other staff and inmates were accounted for, and the rest of the inmates were locked in their cells, authorities said.

Negotiation teams and officers from the Corrections Department, the Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office were at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis.

Officials at the scene said they didn’t know what the negotiators were discussing with the inmates.

Joe Masella, president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, said that although he had no details about the situation, negotiators generally try to calm the inmates and “make them realize that they’re in a no-win situation.”

The hostages’ families were told of the situation. “The families are in a state of anxiety and turmoil, just like we are here,” said Bennie Rollins, another department spokesman.

The medium- to high-security prison, west of Phoenix in Buckeye, houses 4,400 inmates, most convicted of felonies such as manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Masella said the prison had been very short staffed at one point but that the situation had been resolved.

He said prison staff did a good job of ensuring no other inmate disturbances occurred after the hostage-taking Sunday.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Masella said. “Once these inmates get a taste of blood, so to speak, there’s no telling what they can do.”

Earlier this month, the prison was the site of two small fires started after an altercation between two inmates spread unrest among 80 prisoners. No one was hurt as a result of the fires, but three correctional officers suffered minor injuries.

Hunter, the department spokeswoman, said the two incidents were not related.

The Corrections Department last dealt with a hostage situation in 1973, when inmates at the prison in Florence killed two prison staff members, Hunter said.

On the Net:

Arizona Department of Corrections: http://www.adc.state.az.us/

AP-ES-01-18-04 2024EST

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