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Black Prison and Jail Employees Win Discrimination Lawsuits


In October 2002, a federal jury awarded a former Fayette County Jail guard $196,000. James Young Sr., an African American, was fired from the jail in 1993 after complaining for over a year that black workers at the jail were not regarded as equal to whites and that former jailer Ray Sabbatine passed over blacks for promotions and assigned them to worse shifts and jobs.

In an October 28, 2002 statement, one of Young's two attorneys, Debra Ann Doss, said Young's complaints led Sabbatine to move him from 1st shift to 3rd shift and then accuse him falsely of being a sexual predator, for which he was fired.

Young filed suit in 1995. After battling several summary judgment motions and twice going to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, his claim was presented to a jury in March 2002. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Young received a new trial in October 2002. This time the jury held that racial discrimination and retaliation were the reasons Young was fired and awarded him $100,000 in punitive damages and $96,000 in actual damages. "Mr. Young is happy to have his dignity back publicly," said Doss. See: Young v. Sabbatine, USDC EDKY, Case No. 5:1995-CV-00370.


The Minnesota Department of Corrections has agreed to create an African American Employment Task Force and to pay $440,000 to settle a racial discrimination suit. Terms of the settlement were released on December 31, 2002.

The lawsuit, filed on March 4, 1999, alleged that for years the state prison system had routinely denied black workers promotions, forced them to work in hostile environments and disciplined them more severely than others.

The newly formed task force will be comprised of a seven-member panel. Four of the members will be appointed by the NAACP, the other three will be appointed by the department. The task force will monitor the retention of black workers as well as their discipline, training, hiring and promotion. "The good ol' boy system may never go away completely, but I'm elated to know we'll have input to make sure we know what's going on in hiring and training," said attorney Jeffrey Anderson of the law firm Reinhardt and Anderson, who represented the workers.

The settlement will be distributed as follows: Michael Dugar, a former Lino Lakes prison therapist who was several times skipped over for promotion, will receive $100,000. Lino Lakes prison guard Traci Dunlap, who claimed she was subjected to hostility and harassment from co-workers and supervisors, will receive $47,000. Jacqueline Scott, a former Shakopee prison community services specialist who alleged a supervisor constantly harassed her, will receive $50,000. The remaining $193,000 will go to the law firm of Reinhardt and Anderson.

Although Corrections Department spokeswoman Shari Burt said in a statement that the department was aware of the need for diversity in the work force, she made clear that the settlement included no admission of culpability by the DOC.

As of December 2002, claims the DOC, 3.2 percent of its 3,889 workers are black, nearly equal to the state's 3.5 percent overall black population as reported by the 2002 census.

Sources: Lexington Herald-Leader, Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press

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Related legal cases

Case Name Unknown

Young v. Sabbatine