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Illinois County Settles Pro Se Jail Conditions-of-Confinement Suit for $10,500

In June 2013, St. Clair County, Illinois, settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by three former prisoners of the St. Clair County Jail alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the jail. Each man received $3,500 in the settlement.

On July 21, 2011, Myron Barber, 49, Timothy J. Headrick, 20, and Floyd Robinson, 56, filed a hand-written pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court. The complaint alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the jail which violated the plaintiffs' civil rights. The conditions they complained of included filthy floors which they were required to sleep on due to overcrowding, inadequate cleaning supplies to clean the floors, showers and toilet areas, a foul stench of human excrement, peeling paint from the ceilings, walls, bars, tables and other fixtures, inadequate food portions, inadequate medical care, inadequate access to a law library, inadequate grievance procedure, inadequate out-of-cell recreation, total denial of outdoor recreation and infestation with insects and mice.

The county settled the lawsuit by paying each of the three former jail prisoners $3,500 in June 2013. However, the settlement agreement was not made public. Its existence was disclosed following a Freedom of Information request by the Belleville News-Democrat. At the same time, the newspaper discovered another settlement involving three jail prisoners.

Kenny G. Wicks, 29, Richard Miller, 35, and Craig Gibson, Jr., 32, filed separate pro se lawsuits alleging they and 11 other prisoners were beaten by St. Clair County Jail guards on December 21, 2011, in retaliation for a fight between guards and prisoners four days earlier. In settlements finalized in August and September 2013, Miller received $2,000, while Wicks received $1,800 and Gibson was given $1,500. Miller was later convicted of aggravated battery of a peace officer in connection with the December 17, 2011, fight with guards and received a three-year sentence. He had already been sentenced to 13 years for aggravated discharge of a firearm.

At least five additional prisoners filed lawsuits challenging conditions of confinement at the jail in 2013. According to St. Claire County Sheriff Rick Watson, overcrowding is the core issue. The 45-year-old jail was designed to hold 418 prisoners, but averaged 504 between mid-December 2013 and mid-January 2014. However, overcrowding cannot explain the peeling paint, lack of cleaning supplies and inadequate food and medical care. See: Barber v. Justus, U.S.D.C.-S.D.IL, Case No. 3:11-cv-00626-GPM-DGW.


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Related legal case

Barber v. Justus