A federal judge has ruled on a civil rights lawsuit brought by a former Bucks County inmate who alleges his mental illness worsened after corrections officers beat and strangled him while he was confined to a restraint chair can be tried.
In a strongly worded order, U.S. District Court Judge Karen Spencer Marston denied Bucks County’s request to dismiss the case with summary judgment stating that Mubarak Alexander “plausibly alleged” that the county used a “objectively unreasonable” physical force against him.
“Considering these allegations to be true, the court finds that a spontaneous mob assault on a subdued and docile inmate is inhumane and excruciating, let alone ‘objectively unreasonable,'” Marston wrote in its May order dismissing the county’s motion.
Did Bucks prison staff use excessive force Lawsuit alleges ‘excessive force’ used against mentally ill woman in Bucks County Jail
Alexander, 30, of Philadelphia, currently being held in the state of Schuylkill County, alleges that seven prison officers participated in his assault while he was tied and handcuffed to a restraint chair in July 2018. His lawsuit designates as accused the county and corrections employees.
The lawsuit also alleges that an infirmary nurse refused to document or treat her injuries as a result of the assault and former manager Paul Langana advised her against filing grievances about the assault.
Alexander’s attorney, Amara Chaudhry Kravitz, was unavailable for comment on Wednesday. Through its spokesman James O’Malley, the county declined to comment on the order citing ongoing litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that the assault took place in a common area of the prison’s mental health unit where other inmates and staff could witness it and that this type of behavior among corrections staff was condoned by supervisors and that two supervisors took part in the assault.
Mubarak Alexander says Bucks County Jail held him for no reason
Alexander was being held in Bucks County between March 2018 and November 2020, when a judge sentenced him to 30 to 60 months in state prison after pleading no contest to felony theft and other offenses committed while incarcerated.
During his nearly 1,000 days in prison, Alexander, who is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and auditory hallucinations, alleges he spent most of his time in restrictive housing or mental health units, often under suicide watch, a restrictive protocol for inmates at risk of self-harm.
Alexander alleges that on July 6, 2018, while he was on suicide watch in the mental health unit, prison officers entered his cell, handcuffed him and took him to a common area where he was placed in a restraint chair, limiting movement of his arms and legs.
The restraint chair is a use of force option for correctional officers when an inmate’s behavior presents a threat to themselves or others.
In an amended lawsuit filed earlier this year, Alexander claims officers placed him in a restraint chair for no behavioral reason.
While seated in the chair, Alexander alleges that the officers punched him repeatedly in the face, head, chest and arms, stomach, legs and genitals while d Other corrections staff cheered and encouraged the assault, the lawsuit says.
After the assault, Alexander claims, a sergeant placed a towel around his bloody face and neck and “squeezed it tightly”, making it difficult to breathe.
The towel was later replaced with a spit mask, a mesh fabric covering the face and head. Alexander alleges that after applying the mask, officers pulled him back, suffocating him, before taking him to the infirmary.
In the infirmary, Alexander alleges the nurse on duty refused to treat his injuries, which included a bloody mouth, bruising and “extreme pain”, and told correctional staff that Alexander refused medical treatment.
When Alexander asked the nurse to photograph and document his injuries, she refused, telling him corrections staff should have documented them because use of force incidents are supposed to be videotaped.
In his trial, however, Alexander told the nurse that the recording sergeant turned off the camera shortly after he was removed from the cell.
Bucks County denied this news agency a copy of the use-of-force incident report filed for the incident alleged by Alexander in his trial, citing him as exempt under the “investigation” exemption. Non-Criminal” of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Act.
Documents are filed when officers use physical force against an inmate and include information on the reason for the use of force, whether the incident was videotaped, whether misconduct was committed and whether medical treatment was provided or refused. All officers and supervisors involved in a use of force must complete incident reports, which would then be reviewed by the prison administration.
Alexander claims he was left in the restraint chair after being sent back to an empty shower in the mental health unit and remained restrained there until the next shift, when another supervisor brought him back in his cell and pulled him out of the chair.
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The lawsuit does not say how long Alexander remained in the restraint chair. County correctional policy sets a four-hour limit on the use of a restraint chair, unless an offender is consistently behaving aggressively. The maximum time allowed in a restraint chair under the policy is eight hours, and in these cases a shift supervisor must be informed.
In the lawsuit, Alexander alleges that after the assault he suffered an increase in his auditory hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
The letter confirms the assault. Does he suggest a model?
Alexander claims he filed several grievances with the correctional department about the assault and Lagana met with him and ordered him to stop filing the grievances and stop telling people about the assault.
But Alexander did not stop, according to the lawsuit.
Three years after the alleged assault, Alexander received a response to a grievance he filed with the Bucks County Jail Board of Supervisors in October 2020.
Bucks County Chief Public Defender Ann Russavage-Faust signed the letter, dated March 2021 and included in the prosecution filing.
Russavage-Faust said the board investigated Alexander’s allegations and learned that the guard who punched him was “immediately fired by prison officials”. Other guards “who were present during the incident have been retrained,” according to a copy of the letter.
In his lawsuit, Alexander also alleges that the mistreatment he suffered was not an anomaly and that there is a “widespread practice or custom” at the prison of assaulting inmates with compliant and controlled mental disorders, and the county did not sufficiently train officers on the use of appropriate force in situations involving inmates with symptoms of mental illness.
The lawsuit also noted that the county has not implemented a separate use of force policy for inmates with mental illness, which is contrary to national standards.
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In his order, Marston rejected the county’s argument that Alexander failed to adequately document the existence of a “practice or custom” of mistreatment of mentally ill inmates, or identify the policies of County Correctional Training, nor alleged whether the defendants followed these policies.
Marston found that the county does not have a policy on the “appropriate amount” of force to use in situations involving mentally ill inmates and that the county’s use of force training does not specify what is the appropriate amount of force to use with inmates. shows signs of mental distress and lacks training in the proper use of the restraint chair.
“Alexander also sufficiently alleged that the need for this training is ‘so obvious’ that the county’s lack of specialized training for officers working at MHU could amount to willful indifference.”
Marston also wrote that Alexander’s allegations are plausible and suggested that “the aggressive conduct was in accordance with BCCF custom and practice and, indeed, such aggressive behavior towards a mentally ill inmate was something that the (correctional officers) expected him to be tolerated and not punished. »
“Alexander’s experience may be part of a larger practice at BCCF that was known and accepted by prison officials,” Marston added.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Judge: Excessive force lawsuit against Bucks County Jail may proceed.