TOPEKA — State auditors will look into what went wrong that led to an hours-long uprising this summer at El Dorado Correctional Facility after legislators approved an audit Friday.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said she requested the audit following multiple reported disturbances at the state prison in El Dorado because she was concerned the Kansas Department of Corrections was not being transparent about problems at its facilities. She said she also planned to request an audit of the uprising at Norton Correctional Facility that led to fires and violence and had guards prepared to use lethal force if necessary.
“Obviously, something went wrong, and that’s what I would like post audit to figure out is what went wrong,” Kelly said. “Was it staffing issues? What was it that stimulated these incidents.”
Kelly requested the El Dorado audit in July to look into May and June uprisings at El Dorado. The facility struggles with short staffing and high turnover. Gov. Sam Brownback boosted officers’ pay by 10 percent to help alleviate the situation. He raised pay at other facilities by 5 percent.
The uprisings also have come as KDOC transfers inmates between facilities.
Kelly said she did not think KDOC was upfront about the extent of the El Dorado uprising.
“There was no transparency, initially, so I just want to verify that when they finally became transparent, that we were getting the whole story and nothing but the story,” Kelly said.
Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Samir Arif said in a statement the department convenes a board to review incidents like that at El Dorado.
“The board conducts interviews with inmates and staff who were present during the incident, in order to develop an official record based on facts, rather than conjecture,” Arif said. “The department will share the findings of the investigation once it is complete, and will enthusiastically comply with any information requests from the Legislature.”
Since Kelly’s initial request, Norton Correctional Facility became the site of a late-night disturbance that included a fire, smashed windows and the injuries of two officers. KDOC moved 100 inmates out of the facility following the uprising. Kelly said she intended to ask for another audit aimed at that disturbance.
Kansas prisons have been roiled this summer by uprisings amid overcrowding and a struggle by KDOC to staff them. El Dorado has the highest turnover rate of any Kansas prison.
Norton had been relatively untouched before the September uprising.
Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, has repeatedly called for a special legislative session to further boost officers’ pay.