LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A prison warden resigned two months after the 8 News Now I-Team exposed that a riot was covered up by the Nevada Department of Corrections.
William “Hutch” Hutchings stepped down from his position as warden of the Southern Desert Correctional Center on July 15, according to the department.
Hutchings was employed at the department since May of 2020, Deputy Director William Quenga wrote in an email to the I-Team. Quenga also wrote that “Warden Hutchings voluntarily resigned for personal reasons.”
Inmates at the medium-security prison caused a riot on Dec. 8. However, the department initially downplayed the incident when 8 News Now inquired about it. According to Quenga, as of July 20, Southern Desert Correctional Center is in the process of reviewing since the disturbance.
Through five months of investigating, the I-Team learned that inmates unlocked their cells from the inside, refused orders, covered surveillance cameras, flooded an area with water, and took control of an entire prison unit. Inmates also used a metal bunk bed frame to block an entrance and then mimicked a formation by officers. Some inmates were armed with prison-made weapons such as shanks and threatened to kill staff.
Publicly, the DOC claimed 20 to 25 inmates were responsible for what happened, but the I-Team learned that internally, at least 40 inmates were considered to be direct participants. The department also planned to move more than 100 inmates to other institutions.
While the DOC also claimed that the disturbance happened around 1 p.m., the I-Team uncovered that trouble started five to six hours earlier.
Paul Lunkwitz, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O. Lodge 21, a union that represents correctional officers, told the I-Team that staff inside the jail feared for their lives and did not have the resources they needed.
In May, the department issued a second statement to the I-Team about the incident:
The Nevada Department of Corrections and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office are investigating officer conduct and offender behavior during a disturbance at Southern Desert Correctional Center on Dec. 8, 2021. The incident occurred when nearly 25 inmates in one unit at Southern Desert Correctional Center refused to enter their cells or follow orders. The offenders also started two small fires, which were extinguished before causing significant damage. Minor injuries were reported and treated onsite. The investigation is ongoing, and no further details are available at this time.
Nevada Dept. of Corrections
According to a biography on the website for the Department of Corrections, Warden Hutchings “has 28 years of correctional-service experience with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” He started as an entry-level correctional officer, the biography stated.
Deputy Director Quenga told the I-Team that Associate Warden Frank Dreesen is now the Acting Warden of Southern Desert Correctional Center. According to an online biography, he started as a casework specialist at Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in 2004 and worked his way up.
The prison is located in Indian Springs, about 40 miles north of Las Vegas.