Attorneys in Kansas City are filing a suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections, alleging that its Cameron facility violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights.
KCTV reports that families met over the weekend to share stories of riots, unhygienic conditions and the rampant mistreatment of inmates at Crossroads Correctional Center.
“People will say it’s a staffing issue or a riots issue,” attorney Henry Service said. “This a human rights issue.”
“We, as a society, have to decide what he want to be,” he said.
Service and fellow lawyer Arimeta Dupree are representing 37 inmates in a class action against the state. Both attorneys say their clients are being subjected to gross violations of their constitutional rights—violations they claim are intentionally inflicted by the state.
According to Dupree and Service, prisoners are ‘deliberately’ put at risk. A lack of care and unclean facilities boosts incidences of violence and rioting while decreasing inmates’ ability to live with dignity.
Both lawyers say conditions at Crossroads have slipped throughout spring and summer. The prison has dealt with chronic under-staffing, riots and lengthy lockdowns.
KansasCity.com says that a riot broke out at the facility in May. Since then, inmates have had their already-limited freedoms even more restricted. Many are confined to their cells, unable to receive visitors or avail recreation facilities.
“They’ve gone without hot meals since May 13th when the riot happened, so it’s not right,” said Latara Smith, director of the KC Freedom Project. “It’s just not right.”
Dupree says family members were encouraged to speak up and organize a class action when the lockdown began affecting their ability to visit loved ones. Weeks have gone by since inmates were afforded the privilege to see relatives, something that’s allowed under ordinary circumstances.
“They have a deliberate indifference to this, and it’s absolutely unacceptable, and not only is it unacceptable—it’s unlawful,” Dupree said.
“We understand that when you commit a crime, you pay for that crime, and prison is not a pleasant place,” she said. “But when the prison officials deliberately have an indifference of the serious risk of harm that they are subjecting inmates to—that’s when their actions have become unlawful, and that’s when their civil rights have been violated.”
“If people aren’t concerned about inmates, they should at least be concerned about their tax dollars,” said Rep. Brandon Ellington (D-MO).
“Now, not only do I have concerns about taxpayer dollars . . . [and] about the people who are confined to this facility, I now have concerns about the warden breaking state statute and state law,” Ellington said.
Dupree agreed, saying, “Prisoners or not, this is a human rights issue.”
Inmates have purportedly been denied nutritious meals—others have been exposed to uncontrolled bacterial infections, like MRSA.
“We do not lock people up in disease-ridden environments,” said Service.
About 40 individuals are involved in the suit, with Dupree and Service saying the number of litigants could rise into the hundreds.