Inmate's suit targets prison guards' treatment, Ill. jail policy

By Steve Gonzalez | Feb 28, 2008

A jailed sex offender has sued the Illinois Department of Corrections for $2 million damages claiming his Constitutional rights were breached in an Illinois prison.

Craig Howell is seeking $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages alleging he is subjected to a "blanket policy" which requires inmates being threatened to either fight their cellmate or walk themselves to segregation as a punishment.

Howell, serving a ten year sentence for aggravated sexual assault of a person between the ages of 13 and 16, filed suit in United States District Court Feb. 25 alleging the breaches while housed in the Lawrence Correctional Center in Sumner, Ill.

Howell, who says he stands five foot four inches and weighs 140 pounds, claims he informed a correctional officer about provocation by a cell-mate and was told he needed to deal with the situation in his cell or walk down to segregation. Howell said he chose to walk to segregation where he was required to stay for 30 days.

He also claimed his disciplinary ticket later charged him with a false charge of intimidation or threats.

Howell also filed a grievance in 2007 after refusing to return to his cell following threats by a different cell-mate. He argued he was forced to refuse housing and walk himself to segregation in order to avoid a fight in his cell. However, prison administration ruled the direction was proper procedure.

He also claims that an officer who recently had been disciplined entered his cell in October 2007 and accused Howell of reporting him to prison officials for violating institutional rules. Howell filed a grievance against that officer for making repeated threats against him.

By subjecting him to "grossly inhumane and dangerous conditions of confinement," Howell alleges prison staff acted with "deliberate indifference" to his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

Howell is also seeking a permanent injunction requiring the Illinois Department of Corrections to end its statewide policy of requiring inmates to either deal with the danger of their cellmates or punish themselves by refusing housing in order to avoid the danger and being disciplined for it.

Howell is representing himself in the case. It has been assigned to District Judge William Stiehl.

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