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Atwater prison transitioning from two-month lockdown

U.S. Penitentiary Atwater has begun lifting a prison-wide lockdown that has been in place since two inmates stabbed a correctional officer to death there two months ago, a prison spokesman said Tuesday.

"The institution has begun a slow, gradual transition period toward restoring institution operations," spokesman Miguel Chavez said in an e-mail Tuesday. "For the present time, the lockdown continues under slightly modified conditions."

Inmates are now being allowed out of their cells in small groups for short periods of time under heavy supervision, Chavez said.

Jose Rivera, a 22-year-old Navy veteran who has worked at USP Atwater less than a year, was attacked June 20 by two inmates wielding a handmade weapon inside a prison housing.

The prison ordered a lockdown immediately after the attack. Until this week, USP Atwater's 1,100 high-security inmates haven’t been allowed to see visitors, make phone calls or leave their cells except to shower.

On Monday morning, the prison began allowing inmates to leave their cells for one-hour stretches, one tier at a time, correctional officers said. A tier includes 16 cells, with one to two inmates per cell.

Inmates are also now taking some of their meals outside their cells, Chavez said. They are allowed to make phone calls, though visitors are still are prohibited and inmates still aren’t attending classes or going to work as they normally would.