On August 13, 2007, nine female prisoners at the Pocahontas State Correctional Center in Virginia filed this lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), the superintendent, the chief security officer, and several guards. The plaintiffs filed their complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ...
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On August 13, 2007, nine female prisoners at the Pocahontas State Correctional Center in Virginia filed this lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), the superintendent, the chief security officer, and several guards. The plaintiffs filed their complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of their Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs asserted in their complaint that they were sexually harassed, assaulted and threatened with retaliation by prison officials. One plaintiff was impregnated by one of the guards during her incarceration. The plaintiffs claimed that the sexual assaults violated their protections against cruel and unusual punishment by invading their bodily integrity, using excessive force, inflicting emotional and physical pain, and risking the spread of disease.
The plaintiffs claimed that the superintendent and chief security officer were aware of the sexual abuse occurring in the prison and did nothing to stop it. They alleged that prisoners’ privileges were revoked when they refused sexual advances and were transferred to other facilities resulting in lost wages, loss of good time allowances. The plaintiffs’ cases were consolidated on January 29, 2008.
The plaintiffs sought general and punitive damages of ten million dollars and were represented by private counsel. The case was heard by Judge Robert E. Payne.
On October 29, 2007, the pro se defendant responsible for impregnating one of the prisoners confessed judgment in his official capacity only, admitting liability for ten million dollars. The VDOC objected. Judge Payne had already dismissed the case against the VDOC because of their state sovereign immunity from suits brought against them in federal court and because the VDOC was not a “person” for the purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff then dismissed her complaint against the defendant who impregnated her on January 17, 2008.
The plaintiffs filed several amended complaints, and the defense moved to dismiss each one unsuccessfully. The plaintiffs moved for default judgment against several of the defendants, but the order was denied as moot for failure to prosecute because the plaintiffs missed the hearings on the motion and never rescheduled.
A settlement conference was held on April 14, 2008 and a tentative settlement was reached. Throughout May and July of 2008 the settlement was approved and the case was dismissed on August 15, 2008. The terms of the settlement were confidential, except one plaintiff appealed to the judge for assistance with her attorney. The attorney guaranteed her a payment of $2,500 on the record.Amanda Kenner - 02/04/2017