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Tennessee Prison Guard to Pay $50,000 for Stabbing

A former Tennessee Dept. of Correction guard has been ordered to pay $50,000 to a prisoner who was attacked and stabbed after he resisted the extortion demands of other prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell ruled on August 7, 1999 that former guard Xavier Waters had been deliberately indifferent to "a substantial risk of serious harm" to prisoner Eugene Lamont Foster. Campbell said Waters "was not merely negligent in failing to protect" Foster, but had "ignored several significant indications that something was wrong," which led to the stabbing.

Foster testified at a bench trial in June 1999 that other prisoners at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution had tried to force him to send money and televisions to their relatives. He said his electronically controlled cell-door "popped open" on April 1, 1996 and five prisoners from another part of the facility, wearing winter coats and wielding shanks, took him to a telephone to call his mother. Foster was told he would be killed if his mother didn't bring $5,000 to the prison.

Waters, the only guard in the recreation area, was a short distance away sitting on a ping-pong table. Foster had previously told him that he didn't want to leave his cell for recreation that day, and Waters ignored the congregation of prisoners at the phone, which was a violation of prison rules.

Foster's mother made a three-way call to Foster's attorney David Raybin, and explained the situation. Raybin contacted prison officials on another line. Minutes later, Raybin and Foster's mother listened as Foster was stabbed 32 times when he tried to run from the recreation area.

Waters testified that he called for help after he saw Foster being pursued and stabbed; however, Judge Campbell said he did not believe Waters' denial of responsibility, calling him a defensive and hostile witness. Waters had resigned from the Tennessee DOC in 1997.

Foster spent more than two months in the prison infirmary after the attack. The $50,000 award was for compensatory damages; Campbell declined to award punitive damages. The day after the ruling in Foster's lawsuit was released, TDOC officials transferred Foster from a minimum-security work release center to a higher-security prison.

Source: The Tennessean

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Foster v. _____