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Inmates face arson charge from Johnson County Jail bed mat fire

Rex Barber • Feb 26, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Rule changes in the Johnson County Jail upset some inmates enough to set fire to a mattress and destroy property this past week, according to the county sheriff.

Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said four or five inmates were involved in setting the fire, knocking sprinkler heads lose and breaking a $5,000 kiosk on the afternoon of Feb. 19.

The unrest only occurred in one cell block and stemmed from policy changes regarding food and lock down times and really began Feb. 15 with inmates flooding the cell by clogging toilets, Reece said.

Video of the incident exists and is being analyzed. Reece said the charges, which could include aggravated arson, 31 counts of reckless endangerment and destruction of county property, will be considered by the next grand jury.

Three of the inmates involved were only serving time for misdemeanors. Others were state inmates with years left to serve.

A charge of aggravated arson is a class a felony. This charge alone could result in a 25-year sentence, Reece said.

“I think they acted before they thought,” Reece said.

No one was hurt during the incident and the situation was brought under control without the use of force, Reece said.

The rules and regulations changes came about after a jail inspector visited the facility a few weeks ago and made recommendations.

Reece said some of the inmates did not agree with these changes.

No other part of the jail was affected by the unrest.

The damage to the cell was being repaired. Smoke from the burning bed mat was dissipated with an exhaust fan.

Names of those involved in the burning of the mattress and the destruction of property were not released because charges have not yet been filed.

The next grand jury that will consider those charges should meet in April.

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