Kenneth Abraham’s Comments:
In cases where inmates attack inmates [and there are many], the civil rights lawsuit would stem from “failure to protect”. This article focuses on inmate attacks on prison staff.
Here are two facts no prison administrator will admit: (1) they say attacks are caused by understaffing. They are understaffed, and one big reason is that an astonishing number of new officers resign when they see all of the rampant abuse and corruption among their fellow officers! How do I know? From conversations with some guards who talk to me regularly, and from having talked with some who resigned! (2) many attacks are by inmates repeatedly abused by staff – with no accountability – so they take justice “into their own hands”. I have seen the anger, frustration, and disdain for authority caused by inmates witnessing so much crime committed by “law enforcement officers“, and written of it in several articles.
READ Why only Prosecution and Imprisonment Will Stop Prison Abuse and Police Abuse! Demand It!! How to Avoid the Deaths of More Prison Guards!
Excerpts from the Article:
Rosie Anderson hoped that posting a video of the brutal attack would prompt state leaders to make prisons safer. Anderson – a former correctional officer – is sitting alone in a mental health unit at Central Prison in Raleigh as the YouTube video begins. Prison officer describes her brutal assault while watching the video of it – Rosie Anderson, a former officer at Central Prison, recalled how an inmate attacked her on Aug. 26, 2015.
She’s finishing the day’s paperwork and doesn’t see inmate Sammy Whittington, a convicted killer, walk up from behind until he is almost upon her. She turns just before he attacks.
Whittington throws Anderson to the ground. Then, he punches her in the face and head at least seven times. No one comes to help her for more than a minute.
“I thought that getting my video out,” Anderson recalls, “would open some eyes.”
Anderson, now 34, survived the 2015 prison attack. Since then, others have not.
In April, authorities say, a convicted murderer at Bertie Correctional Institution set a fire, then beat Sgt. Meggan Callahan to death with a fire extinguisher that she had brought to douse the flames. Then, on Oct. 12, prison employees Veronica Darden and Justin Smith were killed inside a sewing plant at Pasquotank Correctional Institution. Four inmates have been charged with killing them as part of a failed escape plan.
These prison assaults share a tragic similarity: All might have been prevented with better staffing, prison experts and officers say.
At some prisons, including Pasquotank and Bertie, more than one of every four officer positions was vacant last year, state data show. Dozens of current and former staff members around the state told the Observer about dangerous staff shortages. Some said that understaffing was so severe that a single officer must occasionally supervise more than 100 inmates. The dangers and low pay of prison work have made it hard for state officials to attract and retain officers. To combat the problem, state officials say they’ve increased pay and expanded hiring programs. But the shortages persist.
Left with serious injuries, Anderson is pleading with state leaders to make changes that will protect prison officers.
In a letter to lawmakers, sent about two months before the deaths at Pasquotank, she asks: “How many more officers must die before eyes are opened?”
Anderson had been a juvenile detention officer in Florida before coming to work in North Carolina in early 2015. Working as an adult correctional officer was a solid career move, she reasoned, a step toward her goal of becoming an instructor for the state Department of Public Safety.
But she didn’t realize how dangerous the job could be. Once every eight hours, on average, a state prison officer was assaulted last year.
And Central Prison, where she worked, is one of the state’s riskiest places for officers. On average, recent state data show, inmates there assaulted officers more than 100 times a year. In a lawsuit and numerous letters to the Observer, inmates at Central contend that officers beat them, too – often when they were handcuffed.
At 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2015, Anderson arrived at Central Prison for her regular 12-hour shift. The prison was short-staffed that day, as it often was, she said. The mental health unit where Anderson was working should have had at least 21 officers, she said, but it was short by at least five. State prison officials refused to provide that day’s staffing information to the Observer.
Many of the more than 200 inmates who lived in that unit suffered from serious psychiatric problems, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – ailments that could make them unpredictable.
Anderson spent much of her day escorting inmates, delivering meal trays and relieving other officers who needed breaks.
At about 5:45 p.m., near the end of her shift, she was asked to take over the watch for another officer inside one of the mental health blocks.
Anderson was the only officer working inside the 24-cell block. She was seated at a table, doing paperwork that needed to be turned in by the end of her shift.
He was serving a 16-year sentence for beating his wife to death with a pipe in 2003. He had been aggressive in prison, too. Twice, he assaulted staff members with sexual intent, prison records show. Five times, he set fires. Anderson looked up and saw Whittington about six feet away, approaching her with his pants lowered and his genitals exposed.
Whittington grabbed Anderson by the neck and threw her to the ground. He straddled her and repeatedly punched her in the head and face, the prison video shows. Then he choked her and tried to sexually assault her.
One inmate standing nearby jumped up and down, waving his arm, trying to get the attention of another officer stationed in a control booth. It was that officer’s job to call for immediate backup if an officer was attacked. Anderson said she briefly blacked out.
Then, for reasons that aren’t clear, Whittington got off of Anderson, 43 seconds after he’d begun to attack her.
Besides suffering brain injuries, Rosie Anderson had additional problems from the attack: nerve damage in her back and broken bones in her hand.
“I feel victimized. I really do,” Anderson said. “If I had known this going in, I would never have taken this job. I wouldn’t put my life in danger.”
But four experts told the the Observer that putting a second officer inside Anderson’s block likely would have prevented or shortened the attack.
“If you know you have a unit made up of mentally ill inmates, I think it’s unconscionable not to have a second officer there,” said Martin Horn, a former secretary of corrections in Pennsylvania who lectures at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “It takes less than a minute for an officer to be seriously injured – which is why having a second officer on the unit would be the best solution.”
At Pasquotank, just one prison officer oversaw more than 30 inmates inside the prison’s sewing plant on Oct. 12, according to two officers who responded to the crisis. Some of the inmates had recent convictions for murder and attempted murder, and they had access to potentially lethal tools. Inmates stabbed employees with scissors and beat them with hammers, according to prison workers who called 911. Prison employees Darden and Smith died. Ten more were injured.
“Ideally you’d like to have at least two officers to watch each other’s back or to sound the alarm faster,” Horn said. “… It would have made a difference.”
“It’s been two years since my attack, and there have been three deaths,” she said. “Nobody seems to listen.”
Rosie Anderson, a former prison officer who was brutally attacked by an inmate at Central Prison two years ago, hoped a video she posted of the attack would help make prisons safer. “I thought that getting my video out,” Anderson recalls, “would open some eyes.”She suffers from periodic bouts of vertigo so severe that “it feels like the ground is moving,” she said. Nerve damage in her back sometimes makes it difficult for her to walk or stand – and occasionally causes her to fall, she said.
A doctor had told her that she could not work with inmates again because she could not risk another concussion and further psychological damage. Last November, the state Department of Public Safety informed her that it could not find another job for her that met her doctor’s restrictions.
These days, Anderson works occasionally as a nursing assistant, doing home visits in cases that don’t require much physical exertion. But, she said, that job provides just a fraction of what she used to earn, which was about $37,000 a year.
Last year, Whittington was convicted of assaulting Anderson. She obtained video of the attack from the prosecutor.
Anderson believes the state is also to blame because it failed to have adequate staffing. She also faults the officer who was supposed to keep an eye on her from a nearby control booth. It’s unclear where that officer was during the attack, why she didn’t let Anderson know an inmate was approaching, and why she didn’t send out an immediate call for help.
State officials say they’ve reviewed the incident and found that prison staff “responded per policy.”
In a written statement submitted to prison officials after the attack, Anderson contended that negligence on the part of the officer in the control booth “almost cost me my life.” Prison officials started investigating, Anderson said, but stopped about three weeks later, when the control booth officer resigned. She says prison officials never told her what went wrong that day or whether any changes were made to improve officer safety.
“How much more damage needs be done to individuals and their families before change is made?”