A $51million lawsuit was filed on May 15, 2006 against the state of Maryland by the parents of an inmate who say that guards were too busy watching television and sleeping to intervene when their son was strangled by another inmate on a prison bus in 2005.
The suit was filed at the Baltimore City Circuit Court against Maryland, the heads of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Division of Correction, the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center known as Supermax, the driver of the bus, and a number of correction officers.
The parents of Philip E. Parker Jr. say that their son was “dragged” off the bus at the maximum security prison in Baltimore and left on the floor for several minutes before being administered CPR.
Parker, 20, was allegedly strangled by Kevin G. Johns Jr, 23, during a 75-mile bus ride from Hagerstown to Baltimore. Johns is being charged with first-degree murder. 35 inmates were on the bus. Parker’s body was not found until the bus arrived at Supermax.
According to the civil complaint, the driver and four guards aboard the bus did not intervene “despite a prolonged struggle.” They were allegedly “sleeping, listening to a radio or watching a portable television, inattentive and/or unwilling to become involved in stopping the brutal attack …”
The complaint also claims that the prison bus was in disrepair, “preventing proper and adequate lighting, visibility and access” for the guards.
The Commission on Safety And Abuse In America’s Prison has said that there were more than 34,000 reports of inmates assaulting inmates in a 12-month period of 1999-2000. That represented a 32 percent increase from the same period five years earlier.
In that same span of 1999-2000, nearly 18,000 prison employees were assaulted – a jump of 27 percent from 1994-95.
Prison officials have a legal obligation to protect prisoners from being assaulted by other prisoners. They can be held liable if they act with “deliberate indifference” or “reckless disregard” for a prisoner’s safety. Personal injury claims and lawsuits arise when people are injured by careless or intentional acts of others, or injured by products that are defective in some way.
In 1995, One-forth of civil cases filed in federal trial courts were filed by prisoners, and every year the 50 states spend millions of dollars defending themselves against prisoner lawsuits for civil rights “violations.”
Parents Of Inmate Killed On Bus Sue Maryland Wtopnews.com, May 16, 2006
Your Right To Protection From Assault And Excessive Force ACLU.org, August 23, 2005
National Commission Opens Hearings On Prison Violence, Abuse Patrickcrusade.org
The Prisoners’ Accomplice Policy Review, September-October 1996
Resources on the Web:
Know Your Rights: The Prison Litigation Reform Act
Prison Conditions Lawsuits: Subject Matters And Time Trends