Justice

Hundreds Of Illinois Prison Staff Allegedly Choked, Beat, And Sexually Assaulted Inmates

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A class action lawsuit filed Thursday alleges more than 232 members of an Illinois’ Department of Corrections unit called Orange Crush sexually abused and beat inmates during routine “shakedowns.”

According to a complaint filed by the attorneys bringing this lawsuit, at four separate facilities, Orange Crush officers told prisoners to undress completely, lift their genitals, spread their buttocks open, stick their hands in their mouths. Inmates were allegedly forced to face the wall with their heads down, and anyone who raised their head was slammed into the wall. Individuals, who were handcuffed forcefully, then had to line up as officers chanted “punish the inmate.” The complaint also claims that members of the unit slammed prisoners’ heads into one another while they were in line, and made them stand with their backs at a 90 degree angle, so that an inmate’s genitals touched the butt of the person in front of him. Prisoners allegedly had to walk, in the same position, around the facility’s gym, and were choked and beaten with batons if they lifted their heads. Officers are also accused of sticking batons between prisoners’ legs to keep them straight.

The lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Demetrius Ross, on behalf of hundreds of inmates housed at Illinois River Correctional Center, Menard Correctional Center, Big Muddy River Correctional Center, and Lawrence Correctional Center. It claims that, “Defendants inflicted unnecessary physical and emotional pain and suffering on Mr. Ross and other prisoners similarly situated to him. They did so intentionally, wantonly, and/or with malice.” It also alleges that the abuse and “failure to intervene” violates the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, in addition to the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Donald Stolworthy, the director of IDOC, is accused of co-conspiring with the Orange Crush unit by sanctioning their behavior and failing to provide resources to report sexual assault and officer misconduct.

The incident comes one month after the Guardian exposed numerous atrocities at the Honan Square warehouse, where police officers detain and beat suspects, including teenagers, “off the books.” Likened to a CIA “black site,” detainees are mostly low-income people of color who are denied legal counsel. Due to the secrecy of activities within the warehouse, there is no way to track or access people held inside. One man died in custody.