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Lawsuit Alleges Black ICE Detainee Subjected to Racial Slurs, Choked in Restraint Chair at Pennsylvania Jail

by Matthew T. Clarke


According to a federal civil rights action filed by Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project attorneys Matthew A. Feldman and Evangeline Wright on November 15, 2023, a Black Jamaican migrant held for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Pike County Correctional Facility (PCCF) was subjected to racial slurs by guards, who choked and pepper- sprayed him while he was strapped into a restraint chair. The infraction that brought down this terrible punishment? Guards said that Damion Davis, 44, used a homemade envelope to send his wife a letter, in violation of jail rules.

Born in Jamaica, Davis came to the U.S. in 1989. Though his father was a naturalized citizen, U.S. law then did not automatically extend derivative U.S. citizenship to Davis. A 2000 change in the law also was not made retroactive. He has thus been detained by ICE for violating immigration law since 2019 and held at PCCF pursuant to ICE’s contract with the county.

On December 2, 2021, Davis wrote his wife a letter, sealed it in a homemade envelope and gave it to a guard to be mailed. The guard told him that homemade envelopes violated jail rules, so Davis would be receiving a disciplinary infraction. But no rule in the PCCF Inmate/Detainee Handbook prohibited homemade envelopes, so Davis asked to see a supervisor.

Sgt. Linda Forshay approached Davis’ cell, accompanied by guards Fitzpatrick and Maurer. She ordered them to handcuff and shackle Davis, as if for transport. When Davis asked where he was being taken, she allegedly ordered them to slam him headfirst into the wall “until he shuts up.” He was slammed a second time before arriving at the intake room along with several others, including guards Fagan and Wagonhoffer.

Since he was shackled, Davis was unable to comply with Fagan’s order to disrobe and don an orange jumpsuit. For that he was pepper-sprayed multiple times directly in the face. His clothes were cut off. Then he was strapped naked to a portable restraint chair and wheeled to a very cold observation cell, where he was kept for about 10 hours.

When he complained that a woman seeing him naked violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act and asked for an ICE officer, Fagan responded with a laugh that he and Forshay believed he was suicidal—presumably their justification for his mistreatment. While he was strapped in the restraint chair, Wagonhoffer choked him. Staffers with PrimeCare Medical, the jail’s contracted healthcare provider, repeatedly approved of his restraint. During the entire ordeal, he was allegedly subjected to racial taunts and slurs.

Davis suffered permanent diminished sight from the pepper spray that was not cleansed in a timely fashion. For causing his injuries, the complaint names Warden Craig Lowe, six guards, PrimeCare and two of its employees as Defendants. PLN will update case developments as they are available. See: Davis v. Lowe, USDC (M.D. Penn), Case 4:23-cv-01896.

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Related legal case

Davis v. Lowe