Prisoner Claims Abuse |at Va. Super-Max Prison

     CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) – Prison officials at Virginia’s only super-maximum prison restrained a former inmate and left him to lie in his own waste for nearly 20 hours, one-time prisoner claims in court.
     In a complaint filed in the Charlottesville Federal Court on September 11, Devon Sykes claims prison officials at Red Onion State Prison in rural southwest Virginia placed him in controversial five point restraints for about 18 hours without stretching, food or bathroom breaks.
     According to the complaint, prison policy dictates that these restraints can only be used when prisoners pose a threat to themselves or others. Otherwise, alternative disciplinary measures, such as restricting inmate privileges, should be used.
     Sykes, who resides in Emporia, Virginia alleges that the prison denied him due process and used the restraints to punish him – unlawfully – after he broke a sprinkler in his cell to protest the prison’s treatment of an inmate in a neighboring cell.
     After fellow inmate Richard Wilson refused to remove a piece of cardboard covering his cell door window, Sykes says correctional officers stormed his cell and used pepper spray and “substantial force” to subdue him, the complaint says.
     Sykes says he tried to persuade the officers not to use force on Wilson, but that his pleas fell on deaf ears. So he says he decided to break the sprinkler.
     Sykes claims the correctional officer defendants immediately pulled him into Wilson’s cell, where they put him into five point restraints. He claims the restraints themselves were covered with remnants of pepper spray and Wilson’s blood spatter. He also says once he was in the restraints, the police beat him, before leaving him, restrained, for the next 18 hours.
     The prison, located near Pound in rural southwest Virginia, has come under heavy fire for allegations of electro-shock stun weapon and pellet gun use, racial abuse and the use of the controversial five point restraints, according to a 2001 report by Amnesty International.
     The prison, which houses extremely violent and predatory individuals according to PrisonPro.com, also faced criticism in 2012 for its use of solitary confinement, a practice the prison calls “segregation.” In June that year, prisoners staged a hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions at the prison.
     The facility can hold about 800 prisoners, about two thirds of whom it holds in isolation for up to 23 hours a day, says Prison.Pro.com.
     Sykes complaint alleges that prison officials failed to properly video tape him while he was in restraints, and that they forged bathroom breaks and meal offerings in prison logs.
     The complaint includes a statement from a former prison correctional officer who said, “it is common practice for prison officials to lie about providing meals to prisoners in five point restraints.”
     Sykes claims the defendants in the case also routinely berate prisoners with racial slurs, including, “nigger,” “jigaboo,” and “jungle monkey.” He goes on to claim that before placing him in restraints, one of the corrections officers told him, “I’m going to beat the black off of you.”
     Sykes seeks $10 million in damages and wants the court to enjoin Red Onion State Prison from using five point restraints unlawfully.
     He is represented by Joshua Elrich and Benjamin Owen in Arlington, Virginia, both of whom declined to comment on the case.
     The Virginia Department of Corrections did not respond to request for comment.

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