One prisoner claims he was brutalized for assuming a guard was trying to make small talk.
Two men formerly detained at Sussex Correctional Institution in Delaware have filed a lawsuit requesting an investigation into an “ongoing and egregious pattern of the use of excessive force” inside the facility.
According to The Delaware News Journal, the lawsuit was submitted to U.S. District Court in Wilmington.
In their complaint, plaintiffs William Davis and Isaac Montague both alleged they were beaten as pretrial detainees.
Both Davis and Montague said that officers have deployed pepper spray directly into their mouths and noses while they were restrained on at least two separate occasions.
Davis, says the News Journal, believes that Sussex staff are likely to seriously injure inmates if their behavior is not checked.
“Justice?” Davis asked. “I think they definitely need to be charged criminally, because eventually they are going to kill somebody.”
The News Journal notes that the two men’s lawsuit follows another complaint lodged against the Delaware Department of Correction, in which a number of currently incarcerated men claimed that state corrections officers regularly beat inmates and otherwise violate inmates’ basic rights.
Davis and Montague are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware.
The Delaware News Journal writes that this is the first prison-litigation-related case that the ACLU’s state-level chapter has take in recent years.
However, ACLU-Delaware’s legal director, Susan Burke, says she intends to pursue similar cases in the future.
“We intend to do a lot of prison litigation,” Burke said. “The conditions are deplorable. We were particularly concerned in this case about the state violence and we look forward to significant changes.”
The Delaware News Journal recounts several incidents in which Davis says that he was brutalized for making simple mistakes.
In one such incident, Davis said a prison guard asked him where he lived.
While the guard had apparently been asking about which cell Davis was placed in, Davis assumed the guard was making casual conversation and told him that he lived in Bear, Delaware.
The guard responded by violently shoving Davis against the wall; several other corrections officers responded, allegedly “pummeling” Davis while instructing him to “stop resisting.”
Within seconds, several other guards had piled atop Davis.
While holding him down, one officer “stuck [a] peppery spray bottle directly in his nose and fired.”
“Imagine taking a glass bottle, smashing it up and grinding it up and snorting that up your nose,” Davis said. “Then times that by 1,000.”
“I felt it burn for days,” he said, adding that the officers tried to and would have maced him a second time if the bottle’s nozzle had not jammed.
The lawsuit, adds the News Journal, is attempting to requisition video of corrections officers’ assaults on Davis and other inmates.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they believe an investigation will uncover further abuses, as well as a lack of disciplinary consequences for those officers responsible.
“They are the type that will kill you down there,” Davis told the News Journal. “They have carte blanche to do whatever they want.”
The lawsuit is seeking an investigation into abuses at the institution, along with compensatory and punitive damages.