A riot at Folsom prison in California was ended after prison guards fired live ammunition at prisoners after attempts at using rubber bullets and tear gas failed. Fortunately the riot ended without anybody getting killed; however, the reasons for the riot are unclear. While some blame prison gangs, others believe that a grudge between prisoners and guards may have started the brawl. Many people would be surprised to know that prison fights and riots often are started over trivial matters. The top ten surprising reasons why prison riots occur are listed below.
1. Missing toothbrushes. Besides brownies and Kool-Aid, a good toothbrush is worth more than gold on the inside. A stolen toothbrush often leads to a fight between prisoners which can turn into a riot if guards don’t start handed out free Oral-B’s to everybody.
2. August is National Prison Riot month. Prisoners often plan random riots to occur during the sweltering heat of August in a number of prisons in the United States.
3. Interrupting a prisoner, or group of prisoners, who are watching “Dancing with the Stars” has been responsible for on average four riots a year since the program has been on the air.
4. Stolen lunch food. Many prison riots begin when one prisoner accuses another of stealing his corn bread, or dessert item, during lunch.
5. Interior decoration disagreements. Oftentimes prisoners in the same cell will disagree over choice of wallpaper or carpet, or another minor detail of annual spring refurbishments of their cell. Sadly, these disagreements often become violent. A riot at Folsom prison in 1989 began as a disagreement among prisoners over whether the common area in the cafeteria should be painted “off white” or “a light tan.”
6. Text messages gone wrong. Many prisoners have cell phones, which are either smuggled into the prison or purchased from guards who also work for Verizon, and they use them to text about the various details of prison life. Sometimes these texts can be misinterpreted as “BFF” or Best Friend Forever, also means “Big Fat Feet” in prison talk and is an insult of the highest degree.
7. Being picked last for a game of basketball in prison can sometimes instigate a riot when the prisoner picked last feels that he has to prove his macho by starting a riot.
8. Cutting in line at the cafeteria often leads to prison fights and riots in many prisons in the United States.
9. Over hearing a guard speak ill about country legend Johnny Cash is often enough provocation for prisoners to begin planning a riot.
10. Most prisoners in the United States spend on average 3.3 hours a day playing chess. While street cred is one thing, being a master chess player is an even more sought after reputation on the inside. Therefore, losing a chess game in a small number of moves is often more embarrassing than what most prisoners can tolerate, and fights and riots often ensue. As the warden at Folsom once noted in a 1994 interview, “When the Chess boards come out in the afternoon on Sunday, that’s when the guards know to be extra careful.”
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