State News

Lawsuit: Eight inmates beaten at NC Central Prison

Posted May 10, 2013

— A federal lawsuit on behalf of eight inmates at North Carolina's Central Prison alleges correctional officers used "blind spots" out of view of security cameras to beat handcuffed and shackled inmates.

An amended complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court by lawyers at North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services says the beatings occurred in Unit One, a cell block known as "The Hole" where inmates are kept in solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons.

The inmates' abuse claims are supported by medical records documenting blunt-force injuries that occurred while they were segregated from other prisoners, including broken bones, concussions and an inmate who is still unable to walk months after his hip was shattered.

N.C. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Walker said the agency would not comment on pending litigation. Kim Genardo, spokeswoman for Gov. Pat McCrory, said he too would have no comment.

The lawsuit names as defendants 21 correctional officers accused of participating in the abuse, as well as two wardens at the maximum security prison in Raleigh. The lawsuit alleges that former prison administrator Gerald J. Branker and current administrator Kenneth Lassister knew about the problems.

Branker's retirement was announced in 2011 after The Associated Press obtained a copy of a scathing internal review that found inmates with serious mental disorders were often kept in isolation for weeks, sometimes nude, in roach-infested cells smeared with human waste.

The new complaint said the problems at Central have grown even worse under Lassiter, detailing multiple cases of correctional officers using "unnecessary, excessive, malicious and sadistic force" the inmates' lawyers believe violated Constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

"We are hopeful that the litigation will be resolved quickly and that Central Prison will take concrete measures to improve safety for their inmates," said Elizabeth Simpson, one of the lawyers for the inmates.

Inmates in Unit One are only let out of their 80-square-foot concrete cells for one hour a day, five days a week, to stretch their legs in an outdoor "recreation cage" if weather permits. They are also allotted three 10-miunute showers a week.

Whenever they leave their cells, the inmates are placed in "full restraints" — wrists handcuffed and connected to a chain around the waist, ankles shacked.

One violent beating was Dec. 3, 2012, and left inmate Jerome Peters in a wheelchair, according to the lawsuit.

Peters, 48, was handcuffed and escorted by two correctional officers from his cell to an outdoor recreation area when the lawsuit said one of the guards punched him in the face while the other grabbed a leg and pulled him the ground. The lawsuit said a third correctional officer then helped the other two kick, stomp and punch Peters.

When they were finished, the lawsuit said the officers put shackles on Peters' ankles and ordered him to walk. He couldn't, the suit said, because his pelvic bone was broken.

A lieutenant later took Peters to see a nurse. Though the inmate insisted his leg was broken, the lawsuit said Peters was given only Tylenol and taken back to his cell.

Later in the day, one of the officers reported to have beaten Peters returned to his cell to deliver lunch. When the officer opened the slot in the inmate's door to deliver his tray, the officer also blasted pepper spray into the cell, according to the lawsuit.

After Peters refused an order to stick his hands, one of which was broken, through the slot to be handcuffed, the lawsuit said an "extraction team" of officers was sent in to forcibly remove him.

Peters was taken to an emergency room and diagnosed with a broken right hip, and fractured bones in his hand and face. He also had blurred vision and numerous cuts and bruises, according to the lawsuit. He underwent surgery, but more than five months later is still unable to walk.

Prison records showed Peters, who is serving a 14-year sentence for burglary, was cited on the same day the lawsuit said he was injured for infractions that include disobeying an order and assaulting staff.

Also included in the complaint is an account of an Aug. 12, 2012, incident in which inmate Billy Riddle's ribs were broken.

According to the lawsuit, Riddle was removed from his cell so that officers could search it. While he was waiting in handcuffs, the lawsuit alleged a correctional officer punched him in the face. Two officers then took Riddle to a secluded area of holding cells inmates call "The Desert" because they are not covered by video cameras.

There, three officers are said to have punched and kicked Riddle in the chest and torso. Riddle was then locked back in his cell, where his pleas for medical attention were ignored, according to the lawsuit.

It took 11 days before prison staff took Riddle to see a physician assistant, who ordered an X-ray. He was diagnosed with multiple rib fractures.

Riddle, who is serving a 13-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon, is now listed as being in solitary confinement at another state prison in Butner.

On December 6, 2011, the lawsuit said inmate Chardan Whitehead got in an altercation with a guard. One sprayed him in the face with pepper spray and two officers took him to "The Desert."

There, the lawsuit said three officers beat the restrained inmate unconscious. He was later taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion and received several sutures to sew up cuts on his head and face. He was also blind in his left eye for several weeks.

Depositions of prison staff said there was no policy regarding the investigation of inmate abuse complaints and video tapes that might contain evidence were routinely erased.

Walker, the spokeswoman for the prison system, said information was not immediately available on whether any of the officers named in the lawsuit had been investigated or disciplined.

___

Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck

61 Comments

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  • Randy Cox May 15, 2013

    Beatings create HUGE problems for other guards because they too become a target. Central can be a wild and wooly place when established boundaries are violated.

    Also, don't expect much truth to come from DOC officials. They have one and only one mission -- JOB PROTECTION.

  • LastSon1981 May 14, 2013

    Commonsense1971
    I agree commiting crimes at 60. You can't even blame that on being young and dumb.

  • CommonSense1971 May 14, 2013

    "My father is currently awaiting trial and I will tell you from FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE! He is 64 years old, can barely walk because of rheumatoid arthritis and a heart condition. He is frail and weak and was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer prior to being incarcerated"
    stefvell

    I guess he wasn't that frail and weak and cancer didn't stop him commiting a crime to land him in jail.

  • stefvell May 13, 2013

    Every single person I meet when I visit my father at NC Central Prison complains that prisoners are denied basic human rights, denied medical treatment and they are not given clean clothes or showers for weeks on end. They live among vomit and feces because the staff could care less to even give them towels to clean up with. My father was using his bedsheet as underwear during one of our visits and was being given one pair of underwear every week or two! Take your heads out of the sand. NC CENTRAL PRISON is a crime against humanity not a public service! My father is still innocent under law and the prison denied him life saving chemotherapy for 5 months while he has been awaiting trial. He was drugged and awakened beaten and bruised a day later. He did not provoke anyone nor could he physically be a threat because he is 65 years old and can barely move due to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lung Cancer! People will believe what they want but I know the truth since I lived it!

  • superman May 13, 2013

    I worked at CP for over 20 years but not as an officer. I found the inmates to be warm caring bible reading individuals. If they were released today they would be with you on Sunday at church. With the exception of a few of course. I remember the inmate who sexually assaulted his 8 year old niece and then buried her alive. He was in the process of writing a book but he accidently fell on a knife several times and rolled down 2 flights of steps. Most of the inmates have to be shackled and handcuffed even while receiving medical attention. Many officers quit the first day or first week. Only the strong survive. Any show of kindness they consider a weakness.

  • pedsrndad May 13, 2013

    Correctional officers are human beings and regardless of the standards they hope to achieve, they are subject to normal human emotions. The general public has no idea of the almost constant emotional and physical abuse the officer experiences. Inmates in Unit 1 of CP are some of the worst of the worst. The inmates believe they can say or do anything to the staff with impunity. Sometimes they find out they are wrong. You need to experience someone cursing you, threatening your family, throwing body waste products on you and then laughing thinking you can do nothing to fully understand. Don't condemn actions of people whose situation you don't "get". My previous post was not allowed possibly because the sentiment I expressed did not fit the liberal agenda.

  • stefvell May 10, 2013

    My dad was not in the hole...he was in the hospital when most of the abuse occurred. I pray. That none of you ever have to experience the disgrace that this prison represents. Many of the guards are worse criminals than those who they beat and abuse. I am writing a book about my personal experience with the nc prison system and those who have not experienced it first hand will be shocked. It is worse than what I ever imagined and I watched Oz and many prison movies. The injustice and inhumanity is beyond cruel it is completely uncalled for and sickening, warped and twisted! THAT IS THE TRUTH. Follow me on Facebook and you will see my book once it is complete.

  • Serious man 4 May 10, 2013

    You liberals caused the bulk of the problems we have in this country today. you want to make children stand in the corner for not behaving, but a parent can't discipline his or her child by spanking or even teachers paddling. Then, you expect the criminal justice system to correct the mistake. I can imagine the junk the guards go thru. The animals in prison,( I know not all are troublemakers) never got disciplined when growing up, so the state has to look after them. They never received what they needed as a child, either because one or both parents abandoned them. If this country doesn't wake up, it will get worse. Put prayer and the ten commandments back where they belong!

  • stefvell May 10, 2013

    My father is currently awaiting trial and I will tell you from FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE! He is 64 years old, can barely walk because of rheumatoid arthritis and a heart condition. He is frail and weak and was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer prior to being incarcerated. He was not treated for his cancer for 5 months even though I had his doctor send his diagnosis to the prison the first day he was jailed. He was not given phone or mail privilege for over two months and still, after 6 months, and for no reason, he does not have phone privileges! He is diabetic and was given a glucose IV drip by mistake. He was drugged and beaten only to awaken a day later to find himself bruised and beaten! Anyone who thinks that the prisoners provoke the abuse needs to think again. He and I report these events but nothing ever comes of it. According to the prison I can not file a complaint on his behalf, his attorneys have not helped and he can't even move enough to write much anymore. God HELP

  • LastSon1981 May 10, 2013

    vickyg0609

    If they were in Unit One the place were everyone in the states send it's worst most uncontrollable inmates then they aren't there because they had a bad day and said a few bad words.

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