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$330,000 for Florida Prison Guards Abused at Training Academy

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) agreed to pay $330,000 to settle claims brought by a trio of former guards who alleged they were fired after complaining of being physically abused at the department’s training academy at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.

The settlement resolved a multi-count complaint filed by FDOC guard Robert Wagner and trainee guards Shannon Fletcher and Sandra Braswell-Allen, and came just days before a trial was scheduled to begin on August 10, 2017.

Wagner had been in law enforcement since 1994 and enrolled in training to become an FDOC guard in August 2013. He said he had “never witnessed anything like what he experienced at [the] Wakulla Training Academy.” According to the complaint, the Academy’s director, Ricky Lay, engaged in actions “intentionally designed to injure recruits ... and he delighted over the control he had over the recruits and injuries inflicted on them.”

“The trainees were pushed far beyond their abilities and placed at risk of injuries themselves and did sustain grievous injuries,” the lawsuit stated. “Inexperienced people were flipping each other and throwing them down during Defensive Tactics training.”

Lay, according to the complaint, threatened recruits with termination if they complained about anything that happened at the Academy. During training, Wagner sustained injuries that required surgery. In October 2013, Lay called Wagner into his office and accused him of faking. When Wagner tried to respond, Lay said, “Whose name is on that door? I’m the only one who gets to talk in my office.”

Fletcher and Braswell-Allen claimed they were required to repeat training techniques over and over that they were performing correctly, and were physically assaulted during training. Fletcher sustained a hairline fracture from a front fall technique; she also was forced to submit to a choke hold and engage in a full-force hitting session with a training partner.

Wagner, Fletcher and Braswell-Allen all submitted complaints to the FDOC’s Inspector General. They were subsequently fired after filing the complaints. Represented by Tallahassee attorney Marie A. Mattox, they filed suit against the FDOC in state court.

The settlement agreement provides that each of the three plaintiffs will receive $52,731.96 in compensatory damages plus $9,242.37 in back pay. Mattox received a total of $144,077.01 in attorney fees and costs. See: Wagner v. Florida Department of Corrections, Second Judicial Circuit Court (FL), Case No. 2014 CA 002958. 


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Related legal case

Wagner v. Florida Department of Corrections