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Arkansas County Pays $40,000 To Handicapped Man Raped In Jail

On May 22, 2006, Saline County, Arkansas, agreed to pay $40,000 to a deaf man who was raped by other prisoners in the Saline County Detention Center.
Johnny Jones, a deaf man who is unable to speak, was arrested and charged with rape in May 2002. He was subsequently booked into the detention center and housed in a pod with hearing prisoners, some of whom immediately began abusing and sexually harassing him. One of the prisoners, Joseph Griffith, 28, was a convicted sex offender.

Jones, 57, made numerous requests for an interpreter so he could report the abuse, but jailers ignored him saying they would get one later and that we will work out things between us.

On June 2nd Jones was attacked by Griffith and two other prisoners, Shawn Curtis, 29, and Ben Adams, 22. The trio entered Joness cell and began hitting him in the arms with their fists while pulling his pants down. Curtis and Adams then acted as lookouts while Griffith sodomized him. Several days later Griffith sexually assaulted Jones again, this time pulling him into the shower and forcing him to perform oral sex.

Jones continued to ask for an interpreter, but to no avail. In the meantime the other prisoners teased and harassed him. Jones was finally able to get a letter out to his sister detailing the rapes, and on June 16 she notified the Saline County Sheriff's Department. Only then was Jones removed from the general population and placed in a solitary cell.

Griffith, Adams, and Curtis were all charged in the attacks. Adams and Curtis entered negotiated guilty pleas to one count each of false imprisonment and were sentenced to 10 and 12 years in prison, respectively. Griffith was convicted on 2 counts of rape and 1 count of sexual assault in June 2003 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

In his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in May 2005, Jones claimed the County violated his civil rights by not segregating him because of his handicap. He further alleged that overcrowding played a role in the attacks. As a result of the rape, Jones claimed he suffers from insomnia, anxiety, and depression. The depression led to a suicide attempt, he says.

The $40,000 settlement includes attorney fees and costs. The County admitted it wasn't much compensation for Jones' ordeal. We know that $40,000 does not go far in attorneys fees alone, much less in compensation itself, said County Attorney George Bucky Ellis. He also said overcrowding should be eased when the County's new jail opens in the fall.

The rape charge that originally put Jones in jail was dropped in April 2003. He pled guilty to making a terroristic threat and was sentenced to 12 months probation. Jones was represented in the civil case by Little Rock attorneys Orin Eddy Montgomery--of Montgomery, Adams & Wyatt--and Stephen W. Tedder. See: Jones v. Saline County, USDC ED AR, Case No. 4:05CV00821-WRW.

Additional source: The Benton Carrier

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Related legal case

Jones v. Saline County