HONOLULU (CN) - Guards at a privately run prison in Arizona stripped, beat and kicked inmates and threatened to kill them, banged their heads on tables while they were handcuffed, and "the warden himself" joined in threatening their families, 18 inmates say in state court. Then the Corrections Corporation of America and its employees, who run the prison, "deliberately destroyed and failed to preserve evidence of their wrongdoing, including videotapes," and "deliberately falsified reports," according to the complaint.
The beatings and death threats came at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., to which Hawaii sent its prisoners to be held by CCA, the nation's largest private prison company.
The inmates say CCA guards beat them to retaliate for a July 26 fight or "disturbance" in which "a lieutenant or other employee of CCA was injured."
The guards beat the plaintiffs to coerce "statements" from them, and "when plaintiffs wrote brief statements, defendants demanded that plaintiffs disclose more, and then engaged in the acts alleged herein [in] an effort to coerce further statements," the complaint states.
"Plaintiffs were beaten and assaulted, including by having their heads banged on tables while they were stripped to their underwear and while their hands were handcuffed behind their backs.
"Plaintiffs were stripped of nearly all of their clothing while being beaten, questioned, and humiliated.
"Plaintiffs were threatened with harm to themselves and their families, including through such statements as:
"a. 'We have your emergency contact information;'
"b. 'We know who your family is and where they live and we are going to harm them;'
"c. 'We are going to kill you;'
"d. 'We will continue to beat you and the only way to stop that is to commit suicide;'
"e. 'We will send you to hell;'
"f. 'We will stick something up your ass.'
"Inmates were required to get on their knees with their hands handcuffed behind their back, whereupon they were beaten by multiple officers employed by defendants.
"Inmates were kicked while on the ground. ...
"Inmates were denied prompt medical treatment for their injuries in an effort to conceal what had happened.
"Inmates were told that if they did not provide written statements, their beatings would continue.
"Beatings in fact continued for those who refused to provide statements.
"In an effort to conceal what was happening, defendants violated their own policy that a handheld camera would be used to film inmates whenever they were being handled by the SORT team.
"As a result [of] duress, force, and threats of force, some of the plaintiffs provide statements in the hope of ending their beatings.
"Inmates were told that if they told anyone what had happened, they would be killed or beaten further.
"CCA personnel, including the warden himself, threatened parents of some inmates, including with longer incarceration."
The inmates also sued Hawaii, which sent them to the prison. They say: "During many of the occurrences alleged above, defendant State of Hawaii had on site its contract monitor, John Ioane, who had actual knowledge and personally was aware of some of the above occurrences, and yet acquiesced in and permitted them to continue."
The inmates demand a protective injunction and punitive damages from CCA, Hawaii and Ioane, for assault and battery, cruel and unusual punishment, coercion and retaliation.
They are represented by Michael Jay Green and John Rapp of Honolulu.
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