NEW YORK (AP) — The federal Bureau of Prisons is moving some MS-13 gang members in its custody into more restricted housing at certain high-security facilities across the U.S. after a gang stabbing in a Virginia prison, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Saturday.
A brawl broke out Wednesday at the prison known as USP Lee between the MS-13 leader and a fellow inmate associated with the Mexican Mafia, and the gang member was stabbed, the people said. The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that the inmate was injured but survived the attack. No one else was injured, the agency said.
Fearing retaliation, officials have started moving some MS-13 inmates into more secured units at the six federal high security prisons, the people said. It was unclear how many inmates were restricted, or how long they’d be separated from the general population.
The prison, in Jonesville, Virginia, houses about 1,500 men. The FBI was notified about the attack and the Bureau of Prisons also launched an internal investigation, which remains ongoing.
The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the incident, which remains under investigation.
The Bureau of Prisons has been plagued for years by chronic violence, extensive staffing shortages and serious misconduct. The agency has come under increased scrutiny since wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life in federal custody in August.
An independent report released in September found that inmates had expressed concerns about a culture of violence that they believed extended to the prison’s leadership and included allegations that staff members both perpetrated and encouraged violence against inmates. The restrictive housing means they will be held separate from the general inmate population, and may be held in a cell either alone or with other inmates.
At one facility in Florida, at least a dozen MS-13 members were placed in the special housing unit. Visitation at both USP Lee, the abbreviated name of the U.S. penitentiary, and another prison, USP Big Sandy in Kentucky was canceled as a result of the fight. There will be no visitation at USP Lee until at least Monday, according to an automated recording at the facility.
Lee prison was also placed on limited operational status a few months ago after an inmate assaulted a staff member, officials said at the time. The staff member was hospitalized after the incident, WCYB-TV in Virginia reported in October. The facility has also had issues with contraband. In 2014, a guard at Lee pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes to smuggle tobacco products and a cellphone into the prison.
The federal Bureau of Prisons has 175,269 inmates housed in 122 different facilities around the country.