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$100,000 Settlement For Black Oklahoma Prisoner Beaten By White Prisoners

Creek County, Oklahoma, has paid $100,000 to a black man who was severely beaten by a group of white prisoners in the county jail.

Rameses Gibbs, a black man, was arrested on November 22, 2001, on a misdemeanor charge and taken to the Creek County Jail. After he was booked in, jailers placed Gibbs in Cell 15--a large tank-type cell reserved for white prisoners who were trouble makers or openly racist, according to Gibbs complaint. At the time the cell was occupied by at least 12 white prisoners, and no blacks. Many of the white prisoners had racist tattoos, and the cell walls were covered with confederate flags, swastikas, Aryan Brotherhood symbols, and the like, which the prisoners made from paper and torn up sheets.

Not surprisingly, Gibbs was attacked by the white prisoners as he climbed onto a bunk in the back of the cell. He was allegedly beaten and kicked for approximately 10 minutes before jailers opened the cell door and the beating stopped. The beating resulted in multiple contusions, bruises, and a broken hand. Gibbs was treated at a local hospital, where his hand was bandaged and he received eight stitches over his right eye.

Gibbs sued in the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Oklahoma under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, alleging violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights to reasonably safe confinement and to be free from pretrial punishment and racial discrimination. He named as defendants the County, Sheriff Steve Toliver, Undersheriff Rick Ishmael (the jail administrator), and deputies Carl Hessom and Floyd Simons.

Gibbs additionally claimed the jail was grossly understaffed--Hessom and Simons were the only jailers on duty for approximately 90 to 100 prisoners when Gibbs was attacked--which resulted in an increased risk of violence in the jail. He further alleged the County failed to adequately fund jail operations, did not have an adequate classification policy in place, and that Hessom and Simons were not adequately trained or supervised. Gibbs also contended the investigation into the beating was inadequate, and as a consequence no charges were filed against the assailants and no disciplinary action was taken against the jailers.

Following the August 22, 2005, filing of Gibbs lengthy and well-drafted response to the defendants motion for summary judgment, the defendants agreed to settle for $100,000. Gibbs was represented by Tulsa attorneys Steven A. Novick and D. Gregory Bledsoe. See: Gibbs v. Board of County Commissioners of Creek County, USDC ND OK, Case No. 03-CV-482-CVE-SAJ.

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Related legal case

Gibbs v. Board of County Commissioners of Creek Co