Six inmates at the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis filed suit against five Illinois Department of Corrections employees in federal court alleging their Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

Larry E. Starks, Jr., James Brown, Craig L. Spencer, David Coleman, Kevin D. Drysdale and Anwar S. Randle are each seeking at least $500,000 in damages, alleging they were denied due process, subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and for violations of the equal protection clause.

The inmates allege on May 13, prison officials authorized a "shakedown" of housing unit one which consists of 24 male dorms even though at the time there was no disorderly conduct or need to restore order. The prison's tactical unit conducted the operation.

They claim the tactical unit advised all of them to comply with their orders or that they would be struck with a wooden club that each member of the tactical team carried.

According to the complaint filed Sept. 22, the inmates were given "malicious and sadistic direct orders" to strip naked, then allowed to put on blue shirts and pants with no undergarments and then told to walk to the gymnasium.

The inmates claim in order to get to the gym, they had to walk outside in 40 degree temperatures and heavy rains and upon arrival were forced to sit in a "restrictive restraint position," which inflicted pain and punishment to the body.

According to the inmates, they were forced to sit in handcuffs in a cramped Indian-style position with legs crossed, chins to their chest and arms behind their back for over two hours which caused cramping and numbing of their limbs.

"The Defendants advised the Plaintiffs that the severe pain was being inflicted on them because they were not holding one another accountable, and not meeting the level of performance of prison officials and the Director of Civigenics," the complaint states.

The inmates claim their Eighth Amendment rights were violated because the "gratuitous infliction of suffering violated contemporary standards of decency."

They are seeking exemplary damages in excess of $500,000, plus punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the jury.

In addition, the inmates are requesting a declaratory judgment which sets strict procedural guidelines so the excessive force does not ever happen again.

Each inmate is representing themselves.

The case has been assigned to District Judge J. Phil Gilbert in Benton.

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