A Wednesday evening incident in C Block at the Vigo County Jail prompted a response by multiple police officers from the Terre Haute area.
Scanner traffic indicated about 30 inmates were refusing to return to their cells shortly after 7 p.m.
Sheriff John Plasse on Thursday said the incident began when inmates got hold of batteries and foil and were using it to heat and ignite toilet paper. No fire actually occurred, Plasse said, but a burning odor was apparent.
Jail staff directed inmates to stop the activity and return to their cells, the sheriff said, and the inmates refused.
Jail staff called for assistance from other agencies to get the inmates into their cells. Plasse said other officers were needed because the jail staff must continue their duties throughout the facility.
The sheriff's office at the moment has 43 of its authorized 67 positions filled, Plasse said Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Plasse told the Vigo County Council that number of jailers had been even lower, into the mid 30s, earlier this year before more correctional officers were hired. Plasse said it is very difficult to hire people who want to do the job.
“Some leave after only one day,” he told the council.
The attorney for inmates in a civil lawsuit pending before a U.S. District Court judge in Indianapolis has written to the county saying if the staffing problem is not properly addressed, he will ask for a hearing to further explore the issue.
While some people outside the jail reported seeing canine officers responding to the Wednesday incident, the sheriff said no canines were in the building and no one was bitten by a police dog.