Just days after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the operators of Idaho's largest prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, an Idaho Falls man who was savagely beaten and suffered what could be permanent brain damage there notified the state that he would sue for at least $25 million.
According to a tort claim filed March 16 with the Idaho Secretary of State, guards at the privately run ICC allowed Hanni Elabed to be severely beaten, "as a form of retribution connected with his refusal to participate in drug distribution at the ICC ..."
Elabed's attorney, Ben Schwartzman, said that Elabed was asked to distribute drugs in the prison, refused and reported the incident.
"It was at this point that he was essentially offered to the gangs as a snitch and allowed to be beaten," Schwartzman said.
ICC officials did not return calls seeking comment. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he could not address the pending lawsuit.
"We're always concerned about the conditions of confinement in any of our facilities be they state facilities or contract facilities," Reinke said.
Elabed's beating is detailed in the ACLU suit, though he is not named. The ACLU filed a federal claim on March 11 on behalf of six named inmates, claiming that conditions at ICC are so violent as to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The suit seeks class-action status for all ICC inmates and punitive damages of $155 million--the 2009 net income of Corrections Corporation of America, which operates ICC--on behalf of one inmate.
According to the ACLU lawsuit, four guards and a counselor watched as another prisoner smashed Elabed's head into a wall more than 10 times, stomped on his head more than 20 times, walked away to get a drink of water and returned to beat him until he was convulsing on the floor.
The incident was filmed and the Ada County Sheriff's Office has reviewed the tape.
Elabed, who was arrested in 2008 for holding up a pharmacy with a BB gun to obtain Oxycontin, to which he was addicted, pled guilty to burglary charges and was sentenced to two years in prison. He is now on medical parole in the care of his family in Idaho Falls.
"He can talk, he can perform some daily activities of life, with help, in some instances on his own," Schwartzman said.
Ada County detectives are also investigating a series of assaults at ICC that occurred on March 10 and resulted in at least one inmate being transported to the hospital.