BOISE, Idaho (CN) - A federal judge allowed a group of inmates to seek class-action status for a lawsuit accusing the Corrections Corporation of America and 11 employees of failing to protect prisoners at the Idaho Correctional Center, a prison that's so violent it's reportedly called "gladiator school."
Former inmate Marlin Riggs sued the CCA in Ada County Court, claiming he told prison staff members that other inmates had threatened him, but they told him to get back to his cell and stop wasting their time. Riggs said he was beaten by a gang of inmates and found "lying in a pool of blood." He also claimed he was confined and denied medical treatment for 15 days after the beating.
Riggs said employees of CCA, the Nashville-based contractor hired to run the prison, ignored video evidence of more than 200 assaults that took place in the same part of the prison in 2008.
The CCA tried to block Riggs from turning his damages claim into a class action. It argued that Riggs is no longer an inmate and is seeking monetary damages, even though the class claims seek only an injunction.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill allowed Riggs to proceed with his bid for class certification, saying similar failure-to-protect cases could be consolidated for possible early mediation.
Winmill suggested that Riggs' case be tried before a jury first, as his evidence of ongoing problems at the prison "would clearly be relevant to the class claims for injunctive relief."
A hearing on the motion for class certification is scheduled for May 27.
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