Judge grants summary judgment to inmate who claims prison staff purposely placed him in harms way

Jon Campisi Mar. 28, 2012, 8:23am

A man awaiting trial in a Pennsylvania prison on charges that he killed a member of the Bloods street gang has been granted summary judgment in his case against the prison system alleging that he was intentionally placed in harms way when he was put into general population despite knowledge on the part of prison staff that he was in danger of being attacked out of retribution for his accused crime.

U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner granted a motion for summary judgment March 22 that had been filed by Marc Anthony James Arnold against four officials with the Lehigh County Prison.

In the same order, the judge denied a motion for summary judgment on the part of the defendants.

According to background information found in the judicial order, Arnold filed suit in early January 2011 alleging that he was put into general prison population by the defendants despite the fact that he made them aware that he was the target of fellow inmates due to his upcoming trial on charges that he killed a known member of a dangerous street gang.

Arnold, who still remains a pre-trial detainee at Lehigh County Prison, claims he was temporarily placed in a segregated housing unit at the prison in early July 2010 for fighting with another inmate, a brawl that was allegedly caused by three Bloods gang members at the prison.

While in segregation, Arnold wrote to the four defendants, listed in the suit as Nancy L. Afflerbach, Carol Sommers, James Bloom and Dale Meisel, making them aware that his life was in danger.

The defendants were aware of the threat of future attacks on Arnold should he be placed in general population, but they failed to take any action in order to protect Arnold from injury, according to court papers.

Despite his pleas, Arnold was placed back into general population following his stint in segregated lockup, and, on Aug. 18, 2010, he was assaulted by a fellow inmate and member of the Bloods gang.

Arnold, who required stitches to repair his damaged face, endured pain and suffering, including migraine headaches and sharp jaw pain, court papers state.

In the memorandum of law, Joyner wrote that Arnold’s allegations are sufficient enough to continue with his claims against the prison officials.

“Upon Plaintiff’s reassignment to the general prison population … Defendants: knew Plaintiff was accused of murdering a Bloods gang member, knew he was already once involved in a violent altercation with Bloods gang members on his first day in Lehigh County Prison, and had reviewed three written requests from Plaintiff detailing the threat to his life,” Joyner wrote. “By choosing to place Plaintiff back into the general population without taking any precautions, Defendants increased the risk of Plaintiff’s injury or death.”

Joyner further wrote that the records shows the defendants were “deliberately indifferent to the danger to Plaintiff’s life,” and that a requirement by the defendants to identify threatening individuals by name before granting him protection “may be prison policy … but it is not the standard of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

“Plaintiff alleges more than mere supervisory liability for all of the defendants,” the ruling states. “As stated in the admitted allegations, Defendants knew of the danger to his life and ‘forced Plaintiff into General Population.’ Thus, Defendants had personal knowledge of the threat to Plaintiff’s life and affirmatively placed him in harm’s way.”


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