County inmates file $1.6M lawsuit
SUNBURY - A $1.6 million federal lawsuit has been filed by eight inmates at Northumberland County Prison against administrators and correctional officers at the jail for inhumane conditions, racial discrimination, retaliation and cruel and unusual punishment.
The hand-written, class-action complaint was filed March 4 in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Scranton, by inmates Angel Espada, Matthew Romero, Timothy Tyler, Tyrone Short, Hakeem Jefferson, Robert Perez, Jason Mercado and Katone Walker against Warden Roy Johnson, Commander Brian Wheary, Lts. Jim Smink, Jason Carl and Michael Walburn, and Sgts. Michael Gibbs, Krista Brouse and Joshua Lehman.
Brouse and Lehman also were named as defendants in $1 million lawsuits filed in September by two other inmates.
The plaintiffs are seeking transfers to another facility, $200,000 each, release from segregation, and for the prison to correct and improve its conditions.
The complaint claims inmates requested forms in February to document grievances related to bias and racial misconduct by correctional officers, but were denied the forms.
Inmates claim the defendants only allowed mostly white prisoners to go on work release, have prison jobs, receive necessary supplies and clothes and be treated with respect during their incarceration. They also claim they were placed in cells that had poor ventilation and broken windows that allowed cold air and vermin to seep in.
The complaint states that all eight inmates were placed inside a filthy cell that had one toilet, two windows and eight bunks and was littered with dead bugs and cockroaches.
The suit claims on Feb. 22, all the plaintiffs were threatened with force by Smink with the support of Johnson and Wheary if they did not comply with orders.
On Feb. 23, all eight inmates were locked in a cell for all but two hours of recreation time, and were denied a shower because the prison was without hot water, according to the complaint.
On Feb. 26, Carl informed the inmates that they would have to wear handcuffs connected to a black box with a chain attached, and wear leg chains, the suit states.
Various other claims are made by the plaintiffs against the defendants in the suit.
Northumberland County Commissioner and prison board chairman Stephen Bridy, who had not yet seen the lawsuit Monday, stated, "It's unfortunate, but the county has become a hot spot for lawsuits. I believe the new camera system we plan to install at the prison will eliminate or reduce the likelihood of inmates filing lawsuits."
Johnson, who is on medical leave, was unavailable for comment Monday.