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South Carolina Prisoner Assaulted By Guards Awarded $600,000

In May 2007 a South Carolina jury awarded $600,000 to a state prisoner who alleged that guards beat him and sprayed him with mace in an unprovoked attack.

Alonzo Brinkley, 32, claimed in his lawsuit, filed in the Marlboro County Court of Common Pleas, that while imprisoned at the Evans Correctional Institution in November 2004, three members of the prison system?s ?red team? ?including two sergeants?initiated an unprovoked attack against him.

The red team, part of the prison?s rapid response team, had been dispatched to Evans that day for added security. Intimidation and unprovoked verbal assaults are common tactics among so-called ?elite? guard units that try to maintain order and unquestioned obedience by cultivating a culture of fear and subservience.

John T. Mobley, the attorney who represented Brinkley, said the guards beat and maced him. ?Basically, he stated that he was in line waiting for a haircut and they came up and started harassing him for no reason,? Mobley said. ?They said, ?Come with us,? took him off and started beating him and punching him and kicking him and maced him.? According the lawsuit, the sergeants also handcuffed Brinkley and rammed his head into a brick wall.

Brinkley?s lawsuit alleged gross negligence on the prison?s part for failing to properly supervise, train, and instruct it?s employees and for tacitly authorizing a culture in which prisoners are exposed to an increased risk of physical abuse.

Two prisoners who witnessed the incident testified at trial. Brinkley also presented a copy of the record of his visit to the infirmary after the attack, which he had mailed to his mother. The prison claimed it could not find a record of Brinkley?s infirmary visit, said Mobley.

?The Department of Corrections disagrees with the verdict,? said DOC spokesman Josh Gelinas. ?We feel the claim is unsubstantiated.?

Brinkley?s verdict came the same week a federal jury awarded $510,000 to a South Carolina prison warden who was fired in 2004. The former warden had sued two prison officials for engaging in a civil conspiracy.

Brinkley, who is serving 20 years for armed robbery, has since been moved to another prison, the Perry Correctional Institution. Mobley, his attorney, is based in Columbia, South Carolina. See: Brinkley v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, Court of Common Pleas, 4th Circuit, Case No. 04-CP-34-0407.

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Related legal case

Brinkley v. South Carolina Department of Corrections