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Elite Guard Unit in Illinois Prisons Allegedly Beat & Sexually Abused Numerous Inmates During Shakedowns

A class action lawsuit filed against officers of an elite guard unit in Illinois prisons accuses the officers of beating and sexually abusing and humiliating hundreds of inmates. The officers, as well as the wardens of multiple facilities and leadership of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), are accused of engaging in a conspiracy in violation of federal law and inmates’ constitutional rights.

Demetrius Ross, an inmate at the Illinois River Correctional Center, claims in late April 2014 a guard unit known as “Orange Crush” conducted a shakedown of the cells. The officers forced inmates to strip in front of female guards. Prisoners were allegedly ordered to march from their cells to a gym in the facility “with their heads on the backs of the prisoners ahead of them in line so that one man’s genitals were in direct contact with the next man’s buttocks.” The “Orange Crush” called this “Nuts to Butts.” Officers shouted about how this was punishment for sins.

The lawsuit argues [(PDF)] Donald Stolworthy, the acting director of IDOC, “grossly failed to protect prisoners like Mr. Ross from the sexual abuse and harassment that they have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Orange Crush team. This abuse is precisely the same type of misconduct that the Prison Rape Elimination Act sought to eliminate.”

It requests “injunctive relief” to force IDOC officials and prison officers to comply with Prison Rape Elimination Act “national standards.”

Similar shakedowns are alleged to have taken place in 2014 at facilities in Big Muddy River, Lawrence and Menard. Nearly ten thousand inmates housed at the time were potentially subjected to this abuse. Ross would like to represent all the inmates, who endured the alleged mistreatment.

In total, 232 “Orange Crush” officers are named as defendants involved in “gratuitously inflicted punishment for the sole purpose of causing humiliation and needless pain.”

The shakedown at Illinois River apparently happened when the facility was “put on lockdown for approximately one week” in April 2014. It was during this time that “Orange Crush” officers committed the alleged abuse in houses of the facility.

When officers entered the wings for the shakedown, they allegedly made “whooping” noises as they hit their batons “on the walls, tables, doors and railing in the wings.” Two officers lined up in front of each of the cells and ordered the prisoners to “get asshole naked.”

Each prisoner was then ordered to come out of their cell, one by one, and to bend over, “spread their buttocks and lift each foot off the ground. They were asked to turn around and “lift their genitals.” Following that, while being denied the request to wash their hands, they were ordered to put their hands in their mouths and spread it open. Anyone who asked questions or asked to sanitize before doing so was apparently told to “shut the fuck up.” Female officers were present for some of the strip searches.

Guards allegedly ordered inmates to return their cells and get dressed, but they were not allowed to put on their underwear. Inmates put on pants, overshirts and shoes. Inmates were next placed in “extremely tight” handcuffs with their “hands facing outwards and their thumbs pointed up at the sky.” Any complaints of pain or request for medical attention were met with profanity from officers.

“The men were ordered to line up and told to keep their heads down,” the lawsuit additionally alleges. “Orange Crush” officers then “lined up next to the prisoners, hitting their batons in their hands, and chanting ‘punish the inmate.’ This went on for several minutes.

The lawsuit goes on to allege:

Once the chanting stopped, Defendant Orange Crush Officers grabbed the back of each prisoner’s head and slammed it violently into the back of the prisoner ahead of him in line. Defendant Orange Crush Officers ordered the prisoners to stand in such a way that one man’s genitals were in direct contact with the buttocks of the man ahead of him in line—referred to by Defendant Orange Crush Officers as “Nuts to Butts.” Mr. Ross’s head was slammed down so violently that his glasses broke and fell from his face. He suffered extreme dizziness and lightheadedness as a result.

Like a scene from the days of slavery in America, inmates allegedly marched to the gym in this formation, enduring violence from officers any time their head happened to come off the back of the person in front of them. Several inmates were “choked and pulled to the ground while other officers jabbed them in their backs with batons.” The stopping and starting made it difficult for inmates to keep their heads on a person’s back, which led to more attacks on the “long and painful” march to the gym.

The lawsuit describes how inmates faced the wall with heads down while in the gym for hours. Officers left them in “stress positions,” as one of the officers, Albright, shouted, “This is punishment for all your sins!” Inmates were allegedly told not to demand medical attention, ask for water or request to use the bathroom. Their pain from the handcuffs was met with, “Be a man and take it or get dragged to seg!”

Inmates were marched back to their cells several hours later and endured the same alleged abuse. Upon return, they found that numerous “non contraband items” were gone. For example, legal documents and property from the commissary were gone and, for many inmates, “shakedown slips” were not left documenting that their property had been taken.

The lawsuit alleges that those who received “shakedown slips,” as IDOC policy requires, were given “inaccurate accounts” of what officers seized. The names of officers who confiscated the property were “obscured” too.

“To this day, IDOC prisoners—including prisoners housed at Illinois River, Big Muddy River, Lawrence, and Menard—continue to be subjected to shakedown procedures like the ones described,” claims the lawsuit. Ross and “similarly situated prisoners” seek damages for injuries they suffered.

This lawsuit was filed by the Uptown People’s Office and Loevy & Loevy in Chicago. In 2010, Loevy & Loevy won a $55 million class action settlement for similar abusive strip searches at the Cook County jail. It was the “largest-ever class action settlement of its kind.” Hundreds of thousands of people were eligible to share in the settlement because they suffered treatment that included humiliating “group strip searches,” where they were forced to stand “shoulder to shoulder in unsanitary conditions.

Photo from Illinois Department of Corrections government website and as such is government work in the public domain. 

CommunityThe Dissenter

Elite Guard Unit in Illinois Prisons Allegedly Beat & Sexually Abused Numerous Inmates During Shakedowns

A class action lawsuit filed against officers of an elite guard unit in Illinois prisons accuses the officers of beating and sexually abusing and humiliating hundreds of inmates. The officers, as well as the wardens of multiple facilities and leadership of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), are accused of engaging in a conspiracy in violation of federal law and inmates’ constitutional rights.

Demetrius Ross, an inmate at the Illinois River Correctional Center, claims in late April 2014 a guard unit known as “Orange Crush” conducted a shakedown of the cells. The officers forced inmates to strip in front of female guards. Prisoners were allegedly ordered to march from their cells to a gym in the facility “with their heads on the backs of the prisoners ahead of them in line so that one man’s genitals were in direct contact with the next man’s buttocks.” The “Orange Crush” called this “Nuts to Butts.” Officers shouted about how this was punishment for sins.

The lawsuit argues [(PDF)] Donald Stolworthy, the acting director of IDOC, “grossly failed to protect prisoners like Mr. Ross from the sexual abuse and harassment that they have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the Orange Crush team. This abuse is precisely the same type of misconduct that the Prison Rape Elimination Act sought to eliminate.”

It requests “injunctive relief” to force IDOC officials and prison officers to comply with Prison Rape Elimination Act “national standards.”

Similar shakedowns are alleged to have taken place in 2014 at facilities in Big Muddy River, Lawrence and Menard. Nearly ten thousand inmates housed at the time were potentially subjected to this abuse. Ross would like to represent all the inmates, who endured the alleged mistreatment.

In total, 232 “Orange Crush” officers are named as defendants involved in “gratuitously inflicted punishment for the sole purpose of causing humiliation and needless pain.”

The shakedown at Illinois River apparently happened when the facility was “put on lockdown for approximately one week” in April 2014. It was during this time that “Orange Crush” officers committed the alleged abuse in houses of the facility.

When officers entered the wings for the shakedown, they allegedly made “whooping” noises as they hit their batons “on the walls, tables, doors and railing in the wings.” Two officers lined up in front of each of the cells and ordered the prisoners to “get asshole naked.”

Each prisoner was then ordered to come out of their cell, one by one, and to bend over, “spread their buttocks and lift each foot off the ground. They were asked to turn around and “lift their genitals.” Following that, while being denied the request to wash their hands, they were ordered to put their hands in their mouths and spread it open. Anyone who asked questions or asked to sanitize before doing so was apparently told to “shut the fuck up.” Female officers were present for some of the strip searches. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."