The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) of the NAACP has filed a brief on behalf of an Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) inmate who claims a corrections officer sexually assaulted him.
Germaine Smart, serving a life sentence for murder, claims he was sexually assaulted in an Alabama State Prison in 2016 by St. Clair Correctional Facility officer Ronald England.
The brief claims that Smart was asked by England to strip down to his boxer shorts and was handcuffed to a bed. Once handcuffed, the brief claimed that the officer began to fondle Smart while he snickered at his protestation.
“Mr. Smart’s allegations were supported by two incarcerated witnesses and corroborated, in part, by a corrections official who admitted hearing Mr. Smart protest the assault,” The brief read. “Nonetheless, the prison official assigned to investigate Mr. Smart’s complaint credited the testimony of Defendant England—without explanation—over the testimony of the three incarcerated men.”
Further, the LDF is claiming that the suspected officer retaliated against Smart for “lying” in his complaint, and, as a result, Smart received disciplinary measures.
“At the unauthorized hearing that followed Defendant England’s unauthorized disciplinary report, Defendant Baker found Mr. Smart guilty of lying and recommended that Mr. Smart be placed in disciplinary segregation for 21 days and lose his right to the canteen, telephone, and visitors for 30 days,” the brief continued. “Defendant Malone approved the punishment that violated the ADOC’s own regulations.”
Alabama law states, “an inmate reporting sexual abuse . . . shall not be issued a disciplinary report for lying based solely on the fact that their allegations were unfounded.”
The retaliation by England and others was presented in a suit before a district court, which found the defendants were not guilty based upon qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.
"Prison officials violated Germaine Smart’s constitutional rights, and when Mr. Smart filed a complaint stating he was sexually assaulted by a prison guard, they made the egregious decision to punish him,” said LDF deputy director of Litigation Chris Kemmitt. “It should have been plainly obvious to any prison guard that retaliating against an incarcerated person and punishing them for filing a sexual assault complaint is unlawful.”
“Incarcerated individuals are at great risk of sexual assault, and prisons in Alabama have long been known to be replete with sexual abuse and neglect,” said LDF assistant counsel Georgina Yeomans. “Incarcerated people should be protected from this abuse, not retaliated against for reporting it. Qualified immunity must not be used to shield prison guards who violate federal law and state regulations and disregard the rights of incarcerated persons.”
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