N.D. v. GEO Group, Inc.
In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi; Eastern Division; Civil Action No. 4:12-cv-188-DPJ-FKB
On June 17, 2012, N.D. (to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of this litigation) was an inmate at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (“EMCF”), located in Lost Gap, Mississippi, where he was serving his sentence for two (2) counts of receiving stolen property, vehicle theft, and a simple assault charge. EMCF is a prison for low, medium and high security inmates, as well as “special needs” inmates, or those with varying mental health issues. At the time, the Mississippi Department of Corrections contracted with the GEO Group, Inc., a private for-profit prison management corporation, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, to manage the daily operations of the facility.
At some point during the early morning hours on that day, N.D. was awakened by his cellmate, who was brandishing a knife against his throat. His cellmate instructed him to remain silent and comply with his demands; frightened for his life, N.D. complied, and his wrists and ankles were tied to his bed. He was then gagged and his clothing cut from his body. Over the course of the next 24 hours, N.D. was forced to endure violence of the most atrocious and inhumane manner at the hands of this animal: he was raped repeatedly, his head and face beaten and bashed with a food tray, and he was stabbed, cut and slashed all over his torso numerous times. Making matters all the worse, if that were at all possible, N.D.’s cellmate actually memorialized these acts, filming a portion of the brutality utilizing a cellular telephone he had in his possession.
After enduring this heinous violence for many hours, N.D. was finally left to himself, at which time he was able to bite through his bindings and free himself from his cell to seek assistance from the guards. He was taken to the local hospital for treatment; soon after his release, he was relocated to another facility to be kept safe, as he was marked as a target for future violence (or death) due to his courage to report his attacker. It was shortly thereafter, during the course of our involvement in another, similar, prison case that we were made aware of what had happened to N.D., and we agreed to take up the fight on his behalf, as well.
While many might believe that the concept of hiring outside corporations to manage the daily operations of the State’s prisons is a desirable and cost-efficient one, what most do not understand is the reality of the outcome- rampant failure to adhere to policy and procedure, creating unconstitutional conditions of confinement, fostering inhumane care and treatment inconsistent with ACA standards, all of which is done in the interest of cutting corners for “cost efficiency”- and resulting in numerous legal hurdles GEO has been forced to defend against, which have been filed in every state in which it operates across the country. This undoubtedly was the case at bar- gang activity ran rampant at EMCF, with a lengthy history of sexual assault against inmates in existence; inmates were determined to have been allow to wander freely throughout the facility, their cell doors left unlocked- or unmaintained, with faulty/broken locks that allowed freedom. Routine and customary cell checks and head counts went unperformed- in this case, had they been done as mandated, as was their defense, GEO employees either ignored the brutality which N.D. was forced to endure- or simply condoned it. Either way, both GEO and its employees were negligent, reckless and/or grossly negligent, and despite his status as an incarcerated inmate, they also violated N.D.’s constitutional rights.
It should be noted that the Mississippi Department of Corrections terminated its contract with GEO in April, 2012, for what we understand to be numerous prior and subsequent failures on their part to properly maintain its facilities and prevent similar acts from occurring, not just at EMCF, but in the other facilities it was contracted to operate throughout the State of Mississippi. MDOC has since retained yet another private prison operator to take its place. In light of the overwhelming evidence against them in this case, which we were able to secure through very diligent and aggressive discovery, during recent mediation GEO agreed to settle the claims against them in this case for a confidential amount in lieu of going forward to what would undoubtedly be a very public- and costly- trial experience.
While no dollar amount can ever make N.D. whole, or repair the damage he has sustained and will undoubtedly carry with him for the remainder of his life, we are quite pleased to have had the opportunity to represent him in his fight for justice, and the battle for his constitutional rights, which are guaranteed to us all, regardless of our placement or position.