Inmates at Lorton Reformatory's medium-security facility filed a law suit yesterday against the District government in U.S. District Court protesting what they described as inadequate and unsafe conditions there.
The case was filed two months after a jury awarded money damages to maximum-security inmates at Lorton for similar complaints.
The suit filed yesterday attributes "virtually unchecked violence" at the medium security facility to a shortage of guards, the inmates' "unrestricted access to weapons," inmate overcrowding and unchecked movement around the prison, prevalence of drugs and alcohol and a wide range of other alleged deficiencies, including "wretched food" and unsanitary living conditions.
The inmates are being represented without charge by the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, which also represented the maximum-security inmates.
The medium-security facility includes 25 dormitories with a capacity of 1,162 inmates, the law suit said. Although each dormitory should house about 40 to 60 inmates, the number sometimes exceeds 100, according to the suit. During a typical day shift, those inmates are supervised by 40 to 56 guards, the suit said.
Guards are more occupied with protecting themselves from assualts than protecting the inmates, the suit contends.
The case was assigned to Judge June L. Green, who also presided at the trial for the maximum-security inmates in June.
In a related development yesterday, Green denied the city government's request that she either reduce or vacate the jury verdict in that trial, which could cost the city government more than $200,000 in damages paid to maximum-security inmates. The city can now take that case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.