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Pa. correctional officers remember Camp Hill riot on anniversary

More than 1,000 prisoners rioted, with hundreds injured and 17 people held hostage

By Corrections1 Staff

Last Monday marked a grim anniversary. Twenty-one years ago, the State Correctional Institute of Camp Hill, Pa., prison was the scene of a devastating riot.

More than 1,000 prisoners rioted, with hundreds of people being injured. Seventeen people were held hostage.

Recalling the incident, Dennis Pletz, a former correctional officer who worked at the prison, said the inmates drove vehicles into the fences and set them on fire to melt the metal.

“They opened a hole in the first fence. They didn’t make it through the second fence. If they would have, the community would have been in a world of hurt,” Pletz told CBS 21.

The riot was blamed on myriad problems including overcrowding, understaffing, a militant group of prisoners, mixing violent with nonviolent prisoners and poor construction, according to an article on on the anniversary.

John Palakovich, Camp Hill’s superintendant — who was the prison’s assistant superintendent at the time of the riot — told PennLive many of the officers who were working at the time behaved heroically.

“There was no second-guessing their own safety,” he said. “They took care of what they had to do and didn’t worry about their own safety to help others.”