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Crime Trackers: Inmates cause disturbance at Pima County Jail after Wi-Fi goes down

TUCSON – A disturbance at Pima County Jail took 60 corrections officers to get under control. The reason for the incident, inmates had their Wi-Fi turned off.

Since 2016, inmates have had tablets issued to them at no cost to taxpayers. Officials said inmates pay for them.

Jail officials said the electronics decrease the number of inmate fights. Through the tablet, the inmates can take classes to better themselves, including anger management and the ability to call home.

However, on March 21, the jail was upgrading the Wi-Fi system in order to make it more secure. Jail staff also decided to update the system to give inmates more options.

After corrections officers told the inmates the Wi-Fi was getting upgraded and for them to head back into their cells, 54 complied and 14 inmates refused.

Lt. Elsa Navarro was the force commander that day. She said the inmates who did not comply were not happy their tablets had been turned off and they wanted the Wi-Fi back immediately.

The corrections officers in 3A called out via radio that inmates had refused to comply with the orders.

News 4 Tucson obtained a video copy of the incident.

It showed a few officers responding, and then there was a wave of them. The disturbance occurred during a shift change so there were quite a few officers who responded to the disturbance.

The video showed the officers talking to inmates and telling them to go back to their cells. Some complied while others argued.

The corrections officers took control of the inmates who became disruptive and restored order.

Navarro said the officers are there to maintain the security and safety of the inmates and the staff.

Inmates who refused to comply were led away in handcuffs and shackles. For safety reasons, two corrections officers per inmate were used to escort the seven inmates out of the pod.

Officials said, three minutes after the disturbance began, the situation was under control. No one was injured.

It was later discovered the seven of the 14 who started the disturbance were documented gang members or had gang ties in the community.

Navarro said it could have been a move by gang members to exert power and influence over the housing unit.

“We’re in charge here,” she said.

The inmates who were not involved in the disturbance immediately got their tablets returned. Those who were responsible did not.

Sgt. James Von Rostowsky is in charge of the third floor where the disturbance took place.

“People who deserve to be punished or disciplined for in house infractions get disciplined,” he said.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.
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