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Former Prison Doctor Settles Racial Discrimination, Wrongful Termination Lawsuit with Federal Government for $65,000

On January 16, 1997, a former prison doctor who had sued the federal government for racial discrimination resulting in his wrongful termination, agreed to dismiss his case in return for a payment of $65,000. This case is being reported by PLN at this time after a longstanding Freedom of Information Act request was recently fulfilled by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Dr. Derrick S. Leacock was hired as Medical Officer at the Federal Correctional Institution at Alderson, West Virginia (FCI-Alderson) on May 4, 1992. Leacock, who is African-American, immediately began to notice that "white inmates were being treated medically much better than minority prisoners," according to the complaint. Leacock also said that due to his race, he was given little or no help from support staff, and that he was assigned "an overload of inmates to treat on a daily basis."

On October 5, 1992, while Leacock was still in his probationary period, he was involved in an altercation with a white male physician's assistant, who pushed Leacock over a work-related disagreement. When Leacock reported the incident, he was told he "needed to gain the respect of staff," and the physician's assistant was not even reprimanded.

According to the lawsuit, immediately after this incident, Leacock's superiors began "an organized _campaign to discharge Plaintiff from employment at FCI-Alderson" prior to the expiration of his one-year probationary period. That campaign included backdating. negative performance evaluations and soliciting incompetent work ratings about Leacock from support staff who were not qualified to rate a licensed physician.

Leacock was finally terminated on February 16, 1993, on the grounds of incompetency. Leacock sued, alleging he was in fact fired solely on the basis of his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sect. 1983, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Leacock's suit -- filed in July 1995 -- sought $120,000 in damages and a trial by jury.

The case was resolved in January 1997, with the parties agreeing to a $65,000 settlement. The BOP also agreed to change Leacock's personnel file to reflect that he resigned for personal reasons, and that all debt owed by Leacock to the government for moving expenses and other advances will be cancelled. The settlement agreement received by PLN was silent on the issue of attorney's fees and costs. See: Leacock v. Reno, No. 1:95-0531 (U.S.D.C. S.D. WV).

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Related legal case

Leacock v. Reno