Gross Abuse Described in Utah Prison

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Prison guards shut the doors and windows and pumped tear gas into a building housing disabled inmates and called them “sissies” as they screamed for help and “thought they were going to die,” prisoners say in a class action.
     Lead plaintiff Timothy Redmond sued three officials at the Utah State Prison in Draper: Warden Alfred Bigelow, Capt. Robert Powell and Sgt. Anderson.
     In their federal complaint, Redmond and four other named plaintiffs claim guards ignored inmates’ screams during the gassing, which lasted for about 30 minutes during a summer afternoon, and that many prisoners “thought they were going to die.”
     “The prisoners in the Olympus wing of the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, all suffer from physical and mental health conditions,” the complaint states. “On Aug. 3, 2011, prisoners housed in this wing were locked in their fully enclosed cells (no windows/no bars/no openings) while their cells were pumped with air contaminated with CS gas (commonly known as tear gas). Immediately upon being exposed to the gas, prisoners felt burning in their eyes, lungs, and skin. The prisoners began desperately trying to get the attention of prison officials by, among other things, kicking, screaming, and repeatedly pressing their emergency response buttons. However, no response was made to prisoners’ emergency calls. Many of the prisoners thought they were going to die. Adding to the prisoners’ distress, prison officials came into the Olympus wing wearing gas masks and at least one official laughed at the prisoners’ inability to breathe.
     “After twenty to thirty minutes of being ‘gassed,’ some of the prisoners were released from their cells and taken to an outside courtyard. On information and belief, other prisoners were left in their cells to sit amidst the lingering gas. Some of those prisoners allowed access to clean air were called ‘sissies’ for complaining. Defendants assured prison administrators that those affected would have access to medical treatment, but prisoners were told that they should only seek medical attention if it was an emergency and that prisoners would be responsible for paying for any medical care received. Additionally, prison officials threatened inmates with future ‘gassings’ and told them that ‘this is what you get for misbehaving.'”
     There are at least 150 inmates in the Olympus wing, according to the complaint.
     It adds: “(P)rison policy does not prohibit the use of tear gas canisters in the circumstances described herein, that is, to respond to misconduct by a single prisoner. Moreover, on information and belief, it is also currently the policy of the prison to use chemical agents on a smaller scale against individual prisoners. Moreover, plaintiffs are unaware of any policy that requires prison officials in the Olympus wing to adequately respond to prisoners in distress when chemical agents are used in the prison, whether it is the targeted individual or prisoners who are not specifically targeted but exposed to the agents nonetheless.”
     Redmond is no longer an inmate at the prison. The co-plaintiffs are still behind bars, the complaint states.
     The complaint lists the named plaintiffs’ medical conditions, among which are schizophrenia, depression with attempted suicide, and obsessive-compulsive disorder with psychosis; one prisoner is on dialysis.
     They seek damages for constitutional violations, a protective injunction, corrective policies, and costs.
     They are represented by John Mejia with the ACLU and Karra Porter with Christensen and Jensen.

%d bloggers like this: