December 1, 2010

Recently Released Video Of Beating Crystallizes Need For Immediate Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 1, 2010

CONTACT:
(212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

BOISE, ID – A recently released video of the vicious beating of Hanni Elabed by a fellow prisoner last January at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), the state-owned prison operated by the for-profit company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is a graphic example of the violence plaguing ICC, said the American Civil Liberties Union today. It is that violence that prompted an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit earlier this year against ICC officials and CCA. The lawsuit described Elabed’s beating, among other incidents, as an example of the violence plaguing the Idaho facility.

The video, taken by the prison’s surveillance cameras and released Tuesday by the Associated Press, shows Elabed being thrown to the ground and brutally beaten and kicked by James Haver while prison guards look on without making any attempts to intervene. Guards fail to intervene even after Haver takes a break to catch his breath before resuming the attack.

The video bolsters claims made by the ACLU and ACLU of Idaho in their March federal class action lawsuit that ICC officials promote and facilitate a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners.

“The levels of violence facilitated by the gross indifference of staff at ICC are unconstitutional, shameful and exemplify the charges we make in our lawsuit,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho.

According to the ACLU lawsuit, a deeply entrenched culture of brutality has resulted in higher levels of violence at ICC than at Idaho’s eight other prisons combined. The lawsuit highlights 24 different cases of assault that have occurred at ICC since November 2006, all of which were entirely preventable and the direct result of failures by ICC officials to protect prisoners despite being placed on notice that these prisoners faced a substantial risk of serious harm. The cases highlighted in the lawsuit are just a small number of the assaults that have occurred at ICC during the past four years.

“There are minimum federal standards for prisons that have been created for a reason, and CCA is violating them,” said Stephen Pevar, staff attorney with the ACLU. “Mr. Elabed's assault is one of more than two dozen assaults listed in our lawsuit. It is simply the tip of an iceberg, and as a civilized society grounded in constitutional protections we cannot allow what CCA is doing to continue."

The ACLU lawsuit charges that epidemic violence at the facility is the direct result of, among other things, ICC officials turning a blind eye to the brutality, a prison culture that relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, inadequate staffing, a failure to discipline guards who intentionally arrange assaults and a reliance on violence as a management tool.

CCA, which boasts of being the largest owner and operator of private correctional and detention facilities in the U.S. with 63 facilities in 20 states housing approximately 76,000 prisoners, has faced hundreds of lawsuits in recent years, including two ACLU lawsuits challenging overcrowding and unconstitutional medical care at the San Diego Correctional Facility, an immigration detention facility in San Diego.

A copy of the ACLU lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/riggs-et-al-v-valdez-et-al-second-amended-complaint

Stay Informed