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Jury Awards Maryland Prison Guard $1.6 Million for Discrimination

In July 2003, a federal jury in Maryland awarded a former prison guard $1.6 million for the discrimination and hostile work environment he endured while on the job at a Maryland prison.

Mathen Chacko, a native of India, alleged in the lawsuit that for 20 years while employed as a guard at the Patuxtent Institution, a Maryland prison, he was taunted and tormented by co-workers and that supervisors did nothing to stop it.

Chacko, barely 5 feet tall and of slight build, says prisoners rarely gave him a hard time. Fellow guards were the problem, he says, mocking his heavy accent, calling him a "camel jockey" and telling him to "go back to India." Once, Chacko says, another guard even handcuffed him as a joke.

Chacko says that his fellow guards particularly liked to humiliate him in front of the prisoners. The prisoners were in hysterics, he said, when a supervisor pat-searched him and when other guards locked him in the chow hall. At first Chacko complained to supervisors about the mistreatment. But, he says, it didn't take long to realize that "they were laughing right along with it all."

Chacko says the situation eventually began to affect his health. He became nervous and paranoid and feared he would have a heart attack. "Every time I walked in that institution, I was getting panic attacks," he said. "I thought, `What is going to happen today?'" Chacko retired from the Department in December 2002, two years after filing the lawsuit. He never wanted to sue the Department, he says, but eventually "they left me no choice."

The jury award against the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is largely symbolic as federal law Title VII limits jury awards to $300,000. Still, it was vindication for Chacko, who suffered both emotionally and physically from his years of torment, said his lawyer, Bryan A. Chapman.

"He needs to be compensated for what he went through," said Chapman. "Apparently a jury agrees." See: Chacko v. State Of Maryland Public Safety & Correction Service, USDC D MD, Case No. 8:00-CV-01951-BEL. g

Source: The Sun

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Related legal case

Chacko v. State of Maryland