Litigation Nation

Regular readers will know well that I was once a corrections officer. I have experience with juveniles, adults, males, females, state, private and federal inmates. I have learned that privately owned and operated facilities are the worst idea ever conceived. Juveniles and adults are two wholly different populations; kids in corrections will disobey simply to be rebellious and look cool, while adults typically respect the rules at least on their face to avoid losing privileges. Kids who go from juvie to adult systems usually have a tough lesson to learn the first few times they pull something like what they used to before they turned 18 and piss off the rest of the inmates on their block when such shenanigans screw up their routine. Federal inmates with ICE will smile at the officers and say, “see you in six months!” because they’re planning to turn around and sneak right back into the country – they’ve done it many times. In a short period of time, I saw quite a bit. Most of all I learned that career is not for me because I have little to no tolerance for adults who know the rules and will still find complicated ways to flaunt them, then get angry and sue when they’re caught. (My favorite was the inmate who sued when he found out that his gang paraphernalia, including two homemade tattoo guns, was being used in the academy to train new officers.)

Another thing I learned, and learned quickly: inmates, both male and female, will commit just about any shocking sexual act they can contrive to get attention. For the most part, adults in prison will behave because they don’t want to lose their privileges (such as their TV’s, classes, time on the weight racks, etc.). There are always the “close management” populations, however, and they are entirely comprised of inmates who will assault officers in any way they possibly can. In just a few short years I had inmates throw every bodily fluid you can imagine (yes, including feces) at me. I learned that you can use a shard of quartz rock half the size of your pinky fingernail to saw a hole in your arm all the way down to an artery – then wait and pop the artery when officers come in to restrain you, and they’re sprayed with blood. I learned that men can form an erection and ejaculate literally on command if it means seeing a new officer, or a “fish”, blush or become otherwise flustered. I learned that women can be the most disgusting creatures on the planet when they really want to, particularly when “Aunt Flo” is visiting. I learned that any inmate, regardless of age or gender, can become maniacally violent for no reason other than that they don’t like the officer standing in front of them.

I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Fourteen correctional nurses and intake officers, all female, are suing their former employer, the Florida Department of Corrections. Why?

Male inmates masturbated in front of them. More specifically, they “gunned” for them, meaning that they ejaculated directly at them.

What’s even more ludicrous is that they are currently about to begin their second trial! In the first, each employee was awarded $45,000 by the jury. The decision was that, “the [Florida Department of Corrections] failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior in the workplace.” The opinion of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited such cases as Erickson v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Slayton v. Department of Ohio Youth Services, two cases which have very questionable capability of setting a precedent for such a case. In Erickson v. WDC, a non-security employee of a private facility was attacked and raped by an inmate who then escaped with her car. In Slayton v. DOYS, another non-security employee was raped but refused to report the supposed assault and was, in fact, accused by inmates of initiating sexual contact (in few cases would I believe the inmates, but after reading up on that case, I do believe them even though I think they’re as much at fault for partaking as she is in initiating it).

In both of the cases cited for precedent, non-security employees had actually been raped because security staff were found to be negligent. In the case before us – Beckford v. Department of Corrections – no such assault took place. A group of employees tasked with medical duties and classification of inmates witnessed what every officer deals with when walking the block. I am, obviously, a female, and yes, I had inmates gunning for me. It was disgusting. I knew when I got into the job that such incidents would occur, though. I didn’t go in without fair warning. I promise these medical staff were warned of the same thing. Their argument is that the department didn’t do enough to stop the close management inmates “gunning” activities.

The court is remiss to ignore other issues that play into this. When discussing close management or special housing inmates, you’re talking about a group of particularly nasty people who cannot be allowed in the general population because their behavior is dangerous to themselves, other inmates and officers. In special housing units inmates are already confined 23 hours a day inside a cell that contains a bed bolted to the wall, stainless steel sink and toilet, a heavy metal door with a plexiglas window, and a slot through which they can give inmates food or medication. They’re only allowed outside for a single hour a day inside a shaded chain-link fence cage. They never have direct contact with other inmates or officers. It’s not solitary confinement, but it’s as close as prisons can legally get to it. What else were prison officials supposed to do?

They’re not allowed to beat inmates. Punishment isn’t punishment anymore. Inmates are taught that they’re not to blame for their crimes – it’s really their bad upbringing and their life circumstances. From the time we are children these days, everyone is taught that you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions. When prison inmates riot or assault an officer, what punishment do they get from there? There’s little more to do at that point. Maybe tack a few years onto their sentence. They’re already in prison. When I worked in private corrections, those of us who had worked at other facilities before were told that we were not allowed to wear our stab shields (low-grade body armor) because it would make the inmates feel that we didn’t trust them. I kid you not.

Essentially, this lawsuit says that prison facilities are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The Eleventh Circuit refused to see the realities that lie beyond the claims of the female employees. It’s not just about inmates creating a sexually harassing work environment. It’s a testament to the complete and utter lack of accountability of any kind in the American justice system. Inmates can sue if an officer so much as uses a profanity in their presence, and there are many instances where they have won. Every individual, business and government entity in America lives in abject terror of the idea of being sued because you never know if you’ll win or lose, even if you’ve done the right thing.

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5 thoughts on “Litigation Nation

  1. It always makes my blood boil when I read about how far amok our legal system has gone. But your little comment about how you couldn’t wear a protective vest because it would make the inmates think you don’t trust them??? I almost spit out my mouthful of coffee when I read that. Those inmates are there because they committed a crime against one or more individuals or our society at large. They have voluntarily made it so that they are not to be trusted.

    This certainly would have been one case where I would support a lawsuit. Either a lawsuit to force the facility to allow officers to wear the vests or a mulitmillion dollar suit if one of the officers was injured.

  2. LOL…So those nurses could sue the inmates who assaulted them. Oh wait, those guys don’t have any money. No wait, I’ll sue the prison. That prison has money.

    So if a new employee is warned of such things, then how in the world do they have standing to sue?

  3. Oh, you guys will love some of the things inmates have sued over. Here in Arizona, a death row inmate named Donald Edward Beaty sued for $110M after prison officials took away his GameBoy. In Beasley v. Howard, an inmate brought a $110,000 lawsuit because of a delay for a dental appointment because he had a toothache.

    In Anzivino v. Lewis, an inmate sued after he was denied dental floss. He was denied because he had murdered an inmate and then escaped.

    In Souch v. State, an inmate sued the prison for damages to his electric typewriter and a fan. He said it was due to officers refusing his “right” to have a surge protector in his cell. A surge protector, however, can be lethal far more easily than a soap-sock (they put a bar of soap in a sock, tie it off, then club you over the head with it).

    In Jamison v. ADOC, an inmate sued over a supposed violation of his “freedom of religion.” Apparently, his religion called for regular sex and he wanted conjugal visits.

    In Holt v. Grant, an inmate sued for libel and slander. This one made me giggle…the inmate had repeatedly gone into the latrine that a female officer was using, so she wrote him up on a disciplinary report. The inmate got pissed and sued.

    In Kabage v. ADOC, an inmate sued because the prison system “failed to properly rehabilitate” him. He claimed it resulted in further crimes upon his release and the subsequent return to prison.

    In Taylor v. Adams an inmate sued because officers violated his Constitutional rights to wear a bra.

    In Dickinson v. Elliot, an inmate sued for retaliation. What was the retaliation, you ask? He wasn’t invited to a pizza party thrown for an officer who was transferring to another state’s department.

    In Brittaker v. Rowland, an inmate sued over a soggy sandwich and a broken cookie in his sack lunch while he was out on work detail.

    In Beverly v. Groose, an inmate sued for the same pay rate as paralegals to work in the prison’s law library.

    I loved this one…in Gibson v. Miller, an inmate sued for the right to practice martial arts and full-contact fighting as part of his “freedom of religion.”

    In Procup v. Strickland, an inmate sued over being made to eat off of a paper plate. Boo-hoo.

    In Spradley v. Rathman, an inmate sued to have fruit juice with his meals and he wanted three pancakes instead of two.

    In Jackson v. Barton, an inmate sued after lightning destroyed the prison satellite system and he was “forced” to watch network TV. He claimed that network TV contained objectionable material, including violence and profanity. He was serving time for murdering five people.

    My favorite lawsuits, however, all came from an Oregon inmate named Harry Franklin. This dude was amazing. He sued accusing officers of wearing “clopping heels” on their boots, making too much noise. He sued when his free speech rights were violated when he commented on an officer’s supposed out-of-wedlock birth. He sought $3M in damages for “mental frustration” when an Oregon news station said “14-wheel tractor trailer” instead of “18 wheeler.” He sued for the right to run for public office while incarcerated. He sued Ronald Reagan (and his constituents!) for “undue restraint” over seat belt laws because the laws didn’t apply to bicycles and horses as well as cars. He sued over supposed lack of sleep because the prison’s heater made noise. He sued for “harassment by water” because over-watering of the yard made it difficult for him to find a dry place to lie down. He sued over desserts being baked in aluminum rather than stainless steel pans, and asserted that scrapings from the aluminum would “settle in his human joints.”

    But my all-time favorite, also from Harry Franklin, was a suit against the Oregon governor, AG, legislators and judges for “failing to pass legislation, which would keep our system such as the courts, &/or jails from being so corrupt.”

    If Americans knew what their tax money was being spent on in prisons, they would be aghast and demand reform.

  4. “If Americans knew what their tax money was being spent on in prisons, they would be aghast and demand reform.”

    Boston Univeristy (a very difficult college to gain admission) used to have a prison B.A. degree program. Imagine that…commit a violent felony and get a begree from BU.

  5. Your lengthy post about prisoners made me glad I support the death penalty for all violent offenses, provided it is the second offense, though. I think the death penalty is a win-win for the prisoners who are executed and for the guards who have to watch over them.

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