The five men say they filed the lawsuit because of their time at Lanesboro Correctional Institution. They are still serving time, but at different prisons. They are also asking never to serve time in Anson County again because of what they say happened there.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Stacey Wynn, Orlando Harshaw, Sean Smith, Benjamin White and Tavieolis Hunt. They are serving sentences for different convictions, including murder, rape and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
No one is arguing that the men should not be in prison. But the lawyer for four of the men, Daryl Atkinson with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice based in Durham, says they should be safe.
“Irrespective of what people may have done, on or in society the punishment is imprison,” said Atkinson, “The punishment is not to be placed in an unsafe environment where you can be stabbed and cut and your medical conditions can be ignored.”
The stories the inmates have shared, outlined in the 45-page lawsuit, include circumstances where guards allowed inmates to be stabbed by other inmates who were gang members. They even allege a unit manager in the prison provided the weapons, and say a hidden bag of shanks was found in the ceiling of his office.
All five inmates filed formal grievances with the Department of Corrections, which is now called the Department of Public Safety. They claim those complaints were ignored and that they were sent back to live in dangerous conditions.
Some of the alleged attacks are documented due to hospital visits and treatment. Atkinson says they don’t want to go back to Lanesboro. He says the men want compensation for pain and suffering, and that they don’t want others to experience what they did.
“They wanted to make sure that a set of policy and procedures were put in place so other men wouldn’t be hurt in the future,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson says the listed defendants (Secretary Frank Perry, Administrator David Mitchell, Lawrence H. Parsons, Jr., Rodney Mauldin, John Harrington, Jeffrey Wall, Allan Kennedy, Rhonda Jackson, Jonathan Peguese, FNU McCoy, FNU Lawrence, FNU Andrews, John Doe Officers 1-7) will have to answer the civil litigation.
If no settlement is reached, the plaintiffs will have a period of discovery to gather more evidence.
Pamela Walker, a spokesperson with the Department of Public Safety, says they have not received the lawsuit yet. And even when they do, Walker says, they can not comment on pending litigation.
Walker did, however, review a list of the defendants to confirm if they still work for the prison system. Two of the men, Jonathan Peguese and Jeffrey Wall, were dismissed in 2013.
Below summarizes each plaintiff’s current prison term and what he alleges happened at Lanesboro to him.
Prison records show Stacey Wynn is now at Tabor Correctional. Wynn is serving his life sentence for first degree murder. His record lists that he has committed one reported infraction, damage to state/another’s property. The lawsuit states he was assaulted in November 2011 by a fellow inmate who worked in the kitchen. It alleges he was stabbed with a filet knife and struck with a chair. Wynn’s lawyer says he suffered serious injuries that were not addressed properly, leading to a permanent disability to his rotator cuff.
Prison records show Orlando Harshaw is now at Pasquotank Correctional. He is serving a life sentence for first degree murder. His record lists that he has committed dozens of reported infractions including substance possession, sexual act and disobey order. The lawsuit states Harshaw was attacked by a fellow inmate after reporting a unit manager gave preferential treatment to gang members. Harshaw claims on March 12, 2012, the unit manager showed the grievance to another inmate who later stabbed Harshaw in the ear with a shank and kicked him with steel-toed boots, rendering him unconscious.
Prison records show Sean Smith is now at Alexander Correctional. He is serving a 19-year sentence. His principal felony is robbery with a dangerous weapon. His record lists that he has committed eight infractions including fighting, misuse of phone/mail and involvement with gang. The lawsuit states Smith withdrew from a gang after completing a prison program. It says when gang members choose to dissociate themselves, their lives and safety are often threatened by active members. It says in April 2012, Smith told the prison administration he wanted to be transferred. Smith says on August 2012, another inmate took a razor and cut his neck, which sent him to the emergency room. Smith says two months later and after multiple requests for a transfer a guard walked him to a shower with his arms handcuffed behind his back and watched as another inmate attacked him with a sharp metal object.
Prison records show Tavieolis Hunt is now at Maury Correctional. He is serving a 30-year sentence. His principal felony is rape. His record lists that he committed ten infractions including possession of money/unauthorized funds, weapon possession and fighting. The lawsuit states he was assaulted and stabbed two times on March 25, 2012, and April 17, 2012. Hunt says in March 2012 when he was attacked he tried to escape by closing himself in a cell. Hunt claims the inmate on the attack instructed a guard to open the cell, and that the guard did. Hunt says he was stabbed multiple times with a weapon that looked like an ice pick. Afterwards, Hunt says he requested to to be transferred. He wasn’t and a month later, Hunt says he was attacked by two inmates in his cell and then by three inmates in the dayroom while guards did nothing. Hunt is the one plaintiff in this case being represented by lawyer Luke Largess of Charlotte.
Prison records show Benjamin White is now at Scotland Correctional. He is serving an 8-year sentence. His principal felony is habitual felon. His record lists that he committed eight infractions including profane language, involvement with a gang and assaulting a person with weapon. The lawsuit states White was attacked by several inmates who were allowed to enter his cellblock by guards and officers who supplied the weapons. White alleges the five attackers are gang-affiliated and that they sent him to the hospital with a cut on the left side of his face from his ear to his chin that required 16 sutures to repair.
This article originally ran on WTBT on November 18, 2014. Reporting by Pamela Escobar.