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Indiana Settles Prisoner’s Retaliation Claim for $4,500

On September 12, 2022, the state of Indiana reached a $4,500 settlement to resolve a state prisoner’s claim that guards confiscated his property without following prison procedure and then threatened retaliation when he filed grievances.

Victor Karp was held at Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton on June 16, 2020, when guard Derek Isaacs conducted a search of the prison brake shop where Karp worked. During the search, Isaacs took a small bottle containing coffee that belonged to Karp—without following “proper institutional confiscation procedure,” according to the complaint the prisoner later filed.

Karp filed an informal grievance and then a formal one. Three days later, Isaacs and other guards searched the brake shop again, at which time the guard reportedly told both employees and prisoners that “Karp was the reason for this search because he filed a grievance.” Undeterred, Karp filed another complaint alleging retaliation, supported by statements from four prisoners who had heard Isaacs’ remark.

Two days after submitting the second grievance, Karp was awoken at 7:00 a.m. and escorted by four guards to an office without security cameras, where he was confronted and allegedly verbally abused by Cpt. David Ridgeway. The guard supervisor threatened to have Karp fired and placed in segregation if he didn’t stop “harassing his officers with grievances”; when Karp attempted to respond, he was told to “shut the fuck up.” Ridgeway also indicated that his threats were known and condoned by “everyone from the superintendent down.”

Nevertheless, a third Karp grievance followed concerning the threats and intimidation. Isaacs conducted an “unauthorized” search of the brake shop shortly after Karp’s meeting with Cpt. Ridgeway and—apparently—inadvertently threw away property belonging to another staff member, which he then had to retrieve from a dumpster.

After exhausting his administrative remedies through the grievance process, Karp filed suit pro se in federal court for the Southern District of Indiana in July 2020, raising First, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Isaacs, Ridgeway, Warden Wendy Knight and seven other prison employees. Upon filing his complaint, he asked the Court to allow him to redact the names of other prisoners who were witnesses “to protect them from retaliation.”

The case settled after more than two years of litigation, with the state making its payment to Karp in exchange for dismissing his suit. At the time of the settlement, he was represented by attorney William R. Groth. See: Karp v. Knight, USDC (S.D. Ind.), Case No. l:20-cv-02012.  

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Related legal case

Karp v. Knight