LEWISBURG — An independent agency’s report on alleged excessive force and overuse of restraints by U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg staff against inmates is getting attention in Washington.
In a report released last month, the District of Columbia Corrections Information Council found the top concern of inmates at the Lewisburg prison is mistreatment by staff.
The grievances are among the worst the council has heard in the past three years inspecting about 30 federal prisons that house Washington, D.C., offenders, said program analyst Cara Compani. Lewisburg currently houses 124 D.C. inmates.
“We talked to 35 D.C. inmates in the SMU (special management unit), and 26 reported excessive force,” she said.
Of the 17 inmates who complained about the overuse of restraints, 12 said they suffered injuries, including scars, swelling and numbness, and six reported being left in restraints for more than three consecutive days.
“The complaints at Lewisburg are much higher than at other prisons,” Compani said.
That’s a cause for concern for officials like Washington, D.C., Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue, who “has expressed interest in talking about this report in particular,” CIC Executive Director Michelle Bonner said.
Calls to the Lewisburg institution and the Bureau of Prisons press office were not returned Friday, but officials have denied past reports of similar complaints.
David Sprout, a paralegal with the Lewisburg Prison Project, an inmate advocacy group, hopes the report will lead to reform at the penitentiary, which houses about 1,150 inmates in the SMU.
“It just confirms what we’ve been saying,” said Sprout, who in April took his concerns to U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-10 of Cogan Station, regarding reports of excessive force by staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults at the Kelly Township, Union County, institution.
Incidents have been on the rise since 2009 when the prison was converted into a special management unit, where violent and disruptive inmates from federal prisons around the country are sent to take part in programs designed to move them back into the general inmate population, Sprout said.
At least two inmates this year died from injuries suffered during an altercation with another inmate.
Bonner said the CIC has helped bring reform to other facilities, most recently with the Department of Justice addressing issues at the Hope Village halfway house in Washington, D.C., and is optimistic the report will lead to changes at Lewisburg as well.
“There will be more conversations about Lewisburg here in D.C., and that will only help to ... affect change,” she said.
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