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Mississippi County Pays $27,500 to Settle Lawsuit by Prisoner “Jumped” by Other Prisoners

by Dale Chappell

A man held at the Lauderdale County jail in Mississippi for failure to register as a sex offender settled a federal lawsuit over permanent injuries he received when he was “jumped” by other prisoners while guards failed to stop the attack.

Jarrett R. Nelson was booked into the jail on March 16, 2015 and placed in a common area with numerous other prisoners. Less than 24 hours later, he was attacked and beaten by at least 10 prisoners who were likely gang members. He suffered several injuries, including a broken back, broken ribs, a closed head injury and other wounds needing treatment at a hospital. Nelson was released two weeks later and, on April 20, 2016, filed a notice with the county that he planned to sue the jail.

Nelson’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on November 15, 2017, claimed that jail staff failed to do what a “reasonable, prudent” person would have done in the same situation. Specifically, he argued that the guards’ “blatant failure” to prevent the attack and their delay in stopping it “proximately caused” his injuries.

Nelson’s suit also detailed problems at the Lauderdale County jail related to understaffing, frequent violence and disregard of complaints by prisoners’ families about conditions at the facility. This “willful ignorance,” Nelson claimed, demonstrated an “obvious disregard to inmate safety.”

In November 2018, Nelson reached a settlement with Lauderdale County that the parties agreed to keep confidential; as part of the agreement, the county was not required to admit fault. Documents obtained by Prison Legal News show the county paid $27,500 in damages to Nelson, inclusive of attorney fees; in addition, criminal charges were filed against several of the prisoners who assaulted him.

Speaking about the attack at the jail, Nelson’s wife said he still has to use a cane due to his injuries and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, over three years later. See: Nelson v. Lauderdale County, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Miss.), Case No. 3:17-cv-00905-HSO-LRA. 


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Related legal case

Nelson v. Lauderdale County