State News

Judge to hear arguments in Central Prison lawsuit

Posted August 22, 2013

— A federal judge was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday about dismissing a lawsuit that accuses guards at North Carolina's maximum security prison of sadistically beating inmates, resulting in broken bones and wheelchair confinement.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle planned to consider whether there is enough evidence already presented in court documents to go ahead with the lawsuit on behalf of eight inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The inmates accuse 19 correctional officers of taking handcuffed and shackled inmates from solitary confinement cells where they were placed for disciplinary reasons to blind spots out of view of security cameras, then severely beating them. Former prison administrators Gerald Branker and Kenneth Lassister are accused in the lawsuit of failing in their duties for not developing policies on investigating inmate abuse complaints and to preserve video tapes that might contain evidence from being erased.

"For years, the inmates of Unit One have pursued every avenue available to them to put an end to the violence that is routinely inflicted upon them. They have filed grievances, engaged in letter writing campaigns to public officials, gone on hunger strikes, and exhausted all of the administrative remedies available to them. The violence has not stopped," wrote Elizabeth Simpson, an attorney for North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services representing the inmates.

State attorneys say there is no merit to the allegations. Corrections officers use force with inmates relatively rarely, but have to have the option with the nearly 200 inmates who can be housed in the prison's solitary confinement block, called Unit One, state attorneys wrote in one court filing.

"The inmates housed on Unit One are violent, unpredictable and exhibit little impulse control, so that they are extremely difficult to control," state attorneys wrote. Seven of the eight inmates alleging beatings have collected a total of 583 disciplinary infractions, state attorneys said.

That can't justify systematic beatings that violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, the inmates' lawyers contend. Medical records document that inmates who were segregated from other prisoners suffered blunt-force injuries, including broken bones, and concussions, attorneys said.

One violent beating on Dec. 3, 2012, 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.

Peters suffered a broken right hip and fractured bones in his hand and face. He underwent surgery, but remained unable to walk months later.

Lassiter was promoted in May to director of 12 prisons in the state's central region. Branker retired 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.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio .

29 Comments

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  • sandygayle77 Aug 22, 2013

    I know someone personally that works at Central Prison and I can assure you that those prisoners have more rights than the officers that work there! The officers get pretty low pay considering that they are risking their life, they get feces and urine thrown on them and they can not do a thing about it. They are discouraged from pressing charges against the immates if they are assaulted but they are quick to investigate an officer if an inmate says they have been assaulted. People need to remember these inmates Lie and they are criminals, most of them in unit one are murders, rapist and child molesters so I think it's a shame that they have any rights at all. I don't know anything about this case personally but more than likely the inmates are lying.

  • spunkyisbackagain Aug 22, 2013

    While I don't believe that prisoners should be abused, you have to remember that these folks are not in prison for their pristine reputation. Besides that, from my understanding there are a lot of other types of abuse in prison, such as prisoners raping other prisoners. I haven't seen any of the prisoners bringing lawsuits about that. Only about the guards supposedly abusing them. Why is that?

  • dollibug Aug 22, 2013

    ***The law does not allow prison guards to savagely beat a prisoner.

    The LAWS do NOT ALLOW a lot of *issues* which people get by with....but it happens and it happens probably a lot more than anyone thinks and some people actually get by with what they do.

  • dollibug Aug 22, 2013

    ****Anything that is out of line, or over the top is being investigated, and will be dealt with.

    I have heard this statement made before from another law enforcement officer in another county....I guess this is a common statement that is *used* a lot....perhaps it is taught in law enforcement schools.

  • dollibug Aug 22, 2013

    This is another example of the CORRUPTION AND COVER UP will goes on in this country....it should NOT matter they there are in prison....such as this should be ADDRESSED AND STOPPED*

  • Jack Flash Aug 22, 2013

    "stop comparing them to victims."

    If what they allege happened, they are victims.

  • Jack Flash Aug 22, 2013

    "jackflash123- Were you there when these supposed beating occurred?"

    At no point have I assumed what happened, so I'm not sure why you'd even ask me that.

  • pax2U Aug 22, 2013

    Hmmmm....A Boyle is the judge hearing the case and a Boyle is the senior attorney for the Department of Public Safety. Are they related?

  • Goodone2 Aug 22, 2013

    jackflash123- Were you there when these supposed beating occurred? Because I have been privy to much of the information. Their infraction history is public record. Not the details, but you can get you a general idea from reading it over. I am not at all advocating that our officers beat inmates- However, I do advocate any officer to protect themselves as we are instructed. Have you also read their medical records? I have. Anything that is out of line, or over the top is being investigated, and will be dealt with. I do however, suggest you maybe take one of these fellows home at their release. Let me know how that works out for you. And stop comparing them to victims. The victims of these inmates crimes should be appalled. How would you feel if you were at work,doing your job, and your spouse was called to Wake med because you were seriously assaulted by an inmate? See that never makes the news. Again, release dates are also public record. Feel free to pick one and house him at his

  • Jack Flash Aug 22, 2013

    "jackflash123-Are you comparing these VIOLENT HARDENED criminals with the VICTIMS of crimes?"

    I sure did, b/c if these VIOLENT HARDENED criminals are being punished cruelly and unusually, outside what is Constitutionally allowed, they are VICTIMS of crimes, too. Like I said (and I was pretty clear the first time), just b/c someone has done something wrong doesn't mean it is acceptable to do every possible thing to them in return.

    I'm not the only one making the comparison, either. I just may be the only one admitting it. The people who say, "She shouldn't have been dressed that way" and the people who say, "They shouldn't have ended up in prison" are also making that comparison b/c they're blaming both victims based on something that does not excuse others' treatment of them.

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