On March 1, 1999 the Corrections Corp. of America agreed to pay $1.65 million plus $803,000 in attorney fees and expenses to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by Washington, D.C. prisoners at the company's Northeast Ohio Corr. Center in Youngstown.
The suit, brought by Eugene Busey, James Neal and Leon Richardson in August 1997, claimed unsafe conditions because maximum-security prisoners were being housed at the medium security Youngstown facility. At least 20 stabbings, two of them fatal, occurred at the prison within a oneyear period, and CCA was court-ordered to transfer hundreds of maximum- and closesecurity prisoners to other facilities.. As part of the settlement the company agreed to improve security and classification procedures at Youngstown.
The lawsuit also claimed that CCA guards used excessive force during incidents in.which prisoners were tear gassed and subjected to strip searches and body cavity searches. CCA will pay an additional $100,000 for confiscating prisoners' personal property during shakedowns.
The suit further alleged inadequate medical care - at least seven prisoners have died due to questionable medicalrelated causes since the facility opened. The settlement provides that health care services at the prison must meet National Commission on Corr. Health Care standards.
The City of Youngstown joined the prisoners' lawsuit against CCA in 1998. Under a separate agreement CCA will pay the city $130,000 a year to cover the cost of two independent monitors to oversee the prison, and will post a $2 million surety bond.
The settlement of the Youngstown suit also resolves claims against the District of Columbia, which was named as a defendant. The CCA and D.C. defendants agreed not to apply the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) to the settlement, specifying that it would qualify as a "private settlement agreement."
Prisoners who died at the Youngstown facility and who caused injuries to others are excluded from the monetary portion of the settlement. The families of two prisoners stabbed to death at the prison are pursuing separate lawsuits against CCA. The three prisoners who filed the class-action suit will each receive $9,500; prisoners who were tear gassed will get $1,000, medium-security prisoners will receive $500 and maximum-security prisoners will be paid $300.
"We're pretty happy. When you balance it out, it's a pretty fair settlement because it ensures permanent reform to make the prison safe and provide adequate medical care," said Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati attorney who represented the prisoner plaintiffs. During the litigation CCA unsuccessfully tried to obtain a gag order to prevent Mr. Gerhardstein from speaking to the news media about the case.
The Youngstown settlement was approved by U.S. District Judge Dan A. Poister on April 20, 1999. CCA corporate official noted the company did not admit any wrongdoing in agreeing to settle the lawsuit. See: In re Northeast Ohio Correctional Centers, USDC ND OH. Case No. 4:97:CV1995.
PLN has previously reported numerous problems at the privately-operated Youngstown prison [PLN, Oct 1997; July 1998; Nov. 1998.]
Sources: The Tennessean, Commercial Appeal (TN)
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Related legal case
In Re Northeast Ohio Correctional Centers
|USDC ND OH, 4:97:CV-1995
The settlement in this case is available in the brief bank.