Two inmates were injured in an incident at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution on Friday morning when cell doors in a restricted housing unit were opened in error.
Spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith said one inmate was assaulted by one or more other prisoners and suffered serious injuries.
Another inmate had injuries that were not serious. The cause of his injuries has not been determined, Smith said.
No staff members were hurt, although one person sought medical attention for possible smoke exposure.
The incident happened shortly before 10 a.m. when cell doors on a 16-cell, single-person restrictive housing gallery opened in error. The doors are operated by a computerized system, Smith said. The cause of the error is under investigation.
She said the inmates were directed to stay in their cells but came out into the gallery and refused to return to their cells. No staff members were on the gallery at the time the doors opened.
Staff used chemical agents in an attempt to clear the gallery and return inmates to their cells, she said, but the inmates refused and continued to resist, starting a fire.
The Tecumseh Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire, which was contained to one cell. Smith said the prison has notified the state fire marshal.
The corrections emergency response team was activated and prepared to enter the gallery, but inmates eventually complied with staff directives, she said.
Smith said all inmates in the affected gallery have been accounted for, and the remainder of the facility was not involved, but is in modified restricted operations.
The prison will return to normal operations as soon as possible, she said.
A mother of an inmate told the Journal Star early Friday afternoon that her daughter was turned away from the prison when she went to visit the caller’s son.
Visits scheduled at noon and 3 p.m. were canceled, but Smith said the prison hoped to allow Friday evening visits. Visitors are encouraged to call before driving to the Tecumseh prison.
The Nebraska State Patrol was at the prison and investigating the incident, she said.
A riot at the Tecumseh prison on Mother's Day in 2015 involved more than 400 inmates and lasted 11 hours. Two inmates were killed.
In March 2017, two inmates were murdered during an hours-long disturbance that included fires in the prison yard and in a housing unit.
Last year's incident was in the same housing unit badly damaged by rioting prisoners in 2015.