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Bureau of Prisons Pays $300,000 for Claim Relating to Beating of Prisoner

The Bureau of Prisons agreed to settle claims relating to the severe beating of one inmate by another in February 1993.

The plaintiff, Mark D. Lang, was beaten unconscious on the first day of an 18 month sentence for fraud and conspiracy to grow marijuana. Lang had reported to Federal Medical Center Rochester, Minnesota, as ordered, on February 1, 1993. After processing, he was placed in an administrative detention cell with prisoner Baskim Kulla, a paranoid schizophrenic with a known history of assault on both staff and fellow prisoners.

Lang alleged in his complaint that a red magnetic sticker reading "House Alone" was on Kulla's cell, and that multiple phone calls were made to the Lieutenant Douglas Brindle prior to his placement in the cell. Brindle ultimately ordered the officers on duty to place Lang in the cell with Kulla.

The complaint alleged that within minutes of being forced into the cell, Kulla attacked Lang, repeatedly "boot stomping" his head and neck until he was unconscious. The beating lasted three to five minutes. By the time officers entered the cell and restrained Kulla, Lang was "gasping for air, wheezing, his eyes were nearly shut, and blood was gushing from his face."

After being extracted from the cell, Lang, who was suffering from life-threatening injuries, was placed in a chair, where a physician's assistant "attempted to stop the flow of blood with a towel" for approximately 40 minutes. Eventually another Bureau of Prisons official arrived to take photograph's of Lang's injuries. After being photographed, Lang was transported to the prison hospital where, according to the complaint, prison officials "failed to provide [Lang] with any significant medical treatment."

Despite life-threatening injuries, Lang alleged that it took over three hours to transport him to the Mayo Clinic emergency room. During the transportation process, he was handcuffed, shackled and belly-chained, and was even forced to walk to a prison van through snow and slush with only his prison slippers for foot protection. During this several hour process prison officials declined to call an ambulance, instead electing to transport Lang in a prison transport van.

Doctors ultimately diagnosed Lang with multiple head and neck injuries, including a crushed larynx and windpipe. Immediate measures were taken to stop the swelling of Lang's windpipe, which was preventing him from breathing.

Lang remained in the emergency room for four days, and was then transferred back to the Acute Care Unit of FMC Rochester.

But the Bureau of Prisons wasn't done with him yet.

Lang made multiple and continuous attempts to obtain redress for his injuries, which FMC Rochester Warden Peter Carlson claimed were "ruining [his] career." When Carlson suggested that Lang drop his claims in exchange for Bureau cooperation with a compassionate release, Lang refused. The complaint alleged multiple attempts to transfer him so as to destroy jurisdiction of his habeas corpus petition.

But the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota stepped in and on May 18, 1993 enjoined the Bureau of Prisons from moving Lang out of the state of Minnesota.

Lang also alleged that the Bureau interfered with his attorney-client privileges by opening his legal mail and listening to his legal phone calls during his stay in the prison hospital. Upon release from the hospital, Lang was moved into solitary confinement, where he was housed for 105 days. During this time, according to the complaint, Lang was denied access to any recreation privileges, which Bureau policy provided for.

The final insult from the Bureau of Prisons allegedly came when Warden Carlson offered to transfer Lang to the prison camp of his choice if he would agree to lift the order prohibiting his transfer. Likely eager to leave solitary confinement, Lang agreed and signed a document ordering his transfer to Nellis Air Force Base in Reno, Nevada.

But that didn't happen.

Instead, Lang spent the rest of his time in Bureau custody doing "diesel therapy," transferred to three different facilities, none of which was Nellis Air Force Base. Lang was finally released on January 18, 1994. To this day, according to the complaint, he suffers from "memory loss, panic attacks, lost concentration, night sweats, nightmares, and depression[.]"

The parties settled Lang's tort and constitutional deprivation claims on August 28, 1997 for $300,000.00. Lang also agreed to release the Bureau of Prisons from any further liability relating to the beating.

Lang was represented by attorneys Allen D. Barnard, John P. Boyle and Sarah C. Madison of the Minneapolis, Minnesota firm Best & Flanagan.

The documents from this case were obtained by Prison Legal News after a twelve-year-long battle with the Bureau of Prisons over a Freedom of Information Act request.

See: Lang v. United States of America, et al., United States District Court, District of Minnesota, Civil Case No. 4-96-54.

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Related legal case

Lang v. United States of America, et al.