Jail expert witness Richard Lichten gives an inside view on the causes of jail and prison riots:
One of the reasons it is important to keep the jails and prisons fully funded is inmate and staff safety. In jail and prison, it is a given that inmates will fight. It’s going to happen, and it cannot be stopped. There are a number of things however the staff can do to lessen the violence and keep injuries to a minimum.
It is essential to have proper staffing, training, and supervision. Fewer staff members mean fewer officers walking around talking with the inmates. Sometimes inmates will tell officers about impending violence. Fewer staff means fewer patrols in the cell blocks and yard. With fewer staff the tension in the block and yard will not be felt. Feeling jail and prison tension is essential to do, but you must have staff there to do it. Fewer staff means important clues to danger will be missed. For example, when a number of inmates go to sleep with the clothes and shoes on trouble is brewing. Fewer staff means fewer inmates searched and fewer cell searches for contraband. And fewer staff means less opportunity to train for riots and other emergencies such as earthquake, fire, evacuation, and escape.