MOUNDSVILLE - Despite funding issues and concerns the event might not be able to continue, a 16th version of the Mock Prison Riot at the former West Virginia Penitentiary will happen in May, officials said Friday.
The event, previously planned and run by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, will now be handled by the West Virginia Division of Corrections. According to Mike Coleman, director of security for the DOC, the foundation lost grant funding and was unable to continue holding the event.
"The foundation attempted to line up other sources of funding, but they were unable to do so," Coleman said.
Participants in a past Mock Prison Riot use some of the technologies highlighted at the event as they advance on some “prisoners” staging an uprising. The event will be held again this May, despite previous concerns regarding funding.
Instead of letting the event die, Commissioner of Corrections Jim Rubenstein authorized the DOC to pursue the process of transitioning the event to the DOC, which has now assumed responsibilities for the 2012 event, as well as future mock riots.
"We are planning for this year and hopefully more," Coleman said.
The key to being able to hold future mock riots is the ability to make the event self-sustaining, Coleman said. To do that, the DOC will change the business model for it, charging exhibitors booth fees of $500 for one booth and $250 for each additional booth with a maximum of three booths available for each vendor.
Despite the cost for exhibitors, personnel from corrections and law enforcement will continue to be admitted for free to take part in the event, which Coleman said will continue to offer great opportunities.
"This is a chance for exhibitors to bring things that are in development to a place where personnel can test those products and give feedback," Coleman said, adding he expects nearly 100 exhibitors this year.
That feedback is what makes the mock riot unique, Coleman said, as personnel can take new products immediately into the field and different staged scenarios.
"It allows the vendor to have their product tested on the prison grounds or in a cell block where it is intended to be used, and then they can take that feedback and improve their product," he said.
Coleman said the event has averaged 13,060 participants in recent years, coming from 35 states and 11 foreign countries. He said while the mock riot is helpful to law enforcement and exhibitors, it is also a great way to showcase the Northern Panhandle.
"It normally brings a lot of dollars into the area, and we are happy to be able to continue doing that," he said.
Exhibitors can begin delivering items to the prison April 23, with a team tactical skills and individual super SWAT competition taking place May 5-6. The riot, which includes training scenarios, workshops and technology demonstrations will be held May 7-9.
Online registration is open at: mockprisonriot.org/MPR/REGISTRATION/ADD.ASPX.