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Inmates hold guard hostage for 2 hours

CASTLE -- A male correctional officer at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater was held hostage for nearly two hours Wednesday afternoon by two inmates but released unharmed, prison officials said.

Jesse W. Gonzalez, the prison's spokesman, said the incident began about 2:30 p.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.

"Preliminary indications are that the hostage was not harmed during the course of the incident. The inmates are currently being transferred to another institution," Gonzalez said.

Ryan Silva, a correctional officer and secretary-treasurer of Local 1242 of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the prison could be made safer.

"There's an inherent danger working in a prison, but it doesn't have to be like that. We're been trying to bring this (security concerns) to light for a while," Silva said.

The names of the inmates and the correctional officer are not being released.

The hostage-taking took place inside one of the housing units. All other inmates and staff were immediately accounted for and the institution was secured, Gonzalez said.

Bureau of Prisons hostage negotiators worked to quickly resolve the situation. Gonzalez said the FBI was immediately notified and an investigation has been initiated.

Silva said he didn't have specifics of the hostage situation but thinks the officer is fine.

"In all my years of experience, I've never seen anything like this; it's a bad situation," Silva said.

He praised the lieutenants who work at the prison for handling situations very professionally.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com">dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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