Sacramento jailhouse bruise

Milk dispute causes inmate brawls, lockdown at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center

Two large brawls between dozens of gang-affiliated inmates sent the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center into a facility-wide lockdown last month, SN&R has confirmed. And it all started over stolen milk.

According to Sacramento County Sheriff's Department sources, trouble sparked during morning chow time on December 22, 2013, when a Norteño gang member reportedly nicked an 8-ounce carton of milk from a fellow inmate affiliated with a white street gang. Department spokesperson Sgt. Lisa R. Bowman said security videotape showed more than a dozen Latino inmates attacking the white inmates, resulting in minor injuries for two. The melee quickly broke up when deputies responded.

But some 90 minutes later, around 9 a.m. in a separate dormitory, a loud noise alerted jail staff that a second fight had broken out among the squabbling factions. The combatants stopped upon deputies' arrival. “Deputies believe the fight escalated because one was an associate of a Hispanic street gang and the other was an associate of a white street gang,” Bowman said.

The involved parties were rehoused within the branch, Bowman said. Medical staff treated three inmates for facial lacerations and a bloody nose. The rest of the inmates declined medical care, and no one pressed charges.

The jail, which houses north of 2,000 inmates at its complex of buildings in Elk Grove, was locked down that Sunday, and social visits were canceled. While the lockdown was lifted later that evening, movement of inmates between pods remained restricted.

Sgt. Burk Stearns, who commands the jail's investigative-services unit, said it was one of the largest physical altercations he's seen in his tenure, but added that fights among inmates are common.