WRAL Investigates

Vance County inmates complain of conditions at jail

Posted April 29, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2010 7:10 p.m. EDT

— A man who recently spent time in the Vance County jail said he is still suffering the effects of being beaten and left on the floor with a broken jaw during his incarceration.

Preston Maddox, 20, said his jaw remains wired shut more than a month after, he claims,  several inmates jumped him on March 27 at the jail.

“It was like they stood in line to take turns jumping on me,” he said.

Maddox's jaw was broken in two places. He was released from the medical unit of Raleigh's Central Prison on Tuesday.

He said it took at least a half hour before a correction officer realized what happened and brought him to a nurse's station. There wasn't a nurse on duty, so officers contacted a nurse by phone.

“The nurse tells them that my teeth should tighten up and there was no reason for them to take me to the hospital,” Maddox said.

Maddox said he became hysterical when he realized the severity of his injuries. He said the officers told him they would leave him alone for about 10 minutes to calm down. Maddox said the officers came back four hours later and decided to take him to the hospital.

“I do feel like that situation was not handled properly,” Henderson City Councilwoman Sara Coffey said.

Coffey, who also runs a local bail bonds company, said Maddox's story is just one of several horror stories inmates have told her about at the jail.

In the last year, Coffey has saved letters signed by more than a dozen inmates citing issues like wood particles and maggots in their food. She also said inmates have written that water fountains and sinks in most of the rooms do not work and that they are not being given clean water during lockdown periods.

Maddox said he witnessed prisoners drinking out of toilets during lockdown because they were not given water.

“This jail is in better condition today than it has been in the last 16, 17 years or so,” Vance County Sheriff Peter White said.

White said there are no inmates at the jail living in unsanitary conditions.

In the last year, $1.5 million has been spent on upgrades to the jail, including security cameras, White said. About 90 percent of the jail has been renovated and work is ongoing, he added.

A recent kitchen inspection report shows a top grade from the state, White said.

“I like to show people, so I have an open invitation to anyone who would like to come into the jail. I’d be happy to let them see,” he said.

The sheriff said what happened to Maddox was unfortunate, but fights happen in jails.

The three inmates accused of attacking Maddox – Damien Yancey, 22, Saadi Theodore Williams, 21, and Montrez Lamonte Marrow, 18 – are charged with assault inflicting serious injury. Yancey also faces a misdemeanor larceny charge from stealing $10 in  “canteen items” from Maddox, according to arrest warrants.

White said he reviewed the incident and determined that jail staff followed protocol when assisting Maddox.

“I have no doubt that my officers did exactly what they were supposed to do,” White said.

Maddox believes it shouldn't have taken four hours for him to be taken to the hospital.

“It’s scary to think that someday else could go through the same thing that I’ve been through and no action be taken,” he said.

Maddox says he has nerve damage in his cheek and plans to sue the jail.