The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 20, 2013

Inmate claims conditions at Lewisburg Penitentiary are inhumane


The Daily Item

— SCRANTON - The parties in the lawsuit over conditions at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary have outlined their positions in a joint filing in U.S. Middle District Court.

The lawsuit was greatly reduced in April when Senior Judge William J. Nealon declined to make it a class action so inmate Sebastian Richardson is the only plaintiff.

Richardson, who is represented by the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, contends in Thursday’s court filing the use of painfully tight restraints for the purpose of punishing inmates for rejecting dangerous cell assignments amounts to inhumane condition of confinement.

The defendants, including former Warden Bryan A. Bledsole, 15 corrections officers and a BOP administrator at the time, claim Richardson was kept in restraints for a prolonged time due to his behavior but he was checked on regularly.

The parties dispute the methods used to apply restraints at Lewisburg and whether all notations on prisoner medical records concerning the effects of restraints are accurate.

They also differ on whether Richardson’s constitutional rights were violated, whether he suffered any injury and whether the defendants are entitled to immunity.

It is Richardson’s contention he had to choose between be placed in a cell with a dangerous inmate or placed in painful restraints in accordance with the practice at Lewisburg.

The defendants claim they were not deliberately indifferent to Richardson when they kept him in restraints.

The basis of Richardson’s complaint is discipline he says he has endured since he arrived at Lewisburg in 2010 because at times he has refused to accept certain cellmates because he feared for his safety.

He alleges after he refused one cellmate who had an assaultive history he was placed in restraints so tight he was in pain. On Feb. 10, 2011, he claims he was put in four-point restraints on a bed and denied bathroom privileges.

After eight hours, he claims he was removed from four-point restraints, was placed in other restraints and remained in them until that Feb 23 when they were removed so he could take a shower.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011, claims medical and custodial staff at Lewisburg routinely ignored inmate complaints of pain and other medical problems caused by restraints.

Richardson alleges he was told the only way he would be let out of restraints was to accept any cellmate chosen for him, whether he was hostile or not.

The Louisiana resident, who has been in jail since 1994 on drug charges, accuses the penitentiary of using restraints in violation of Bureau of Prisons policy to punish inmates who refuse a cellmate because they fear for their safety.