ACLU files suit in inmate beating

Posted Tuesday, May 8, 2012 in News

ACLU files suit in inmate beating

Grainy video camera image of inmate beating.

PORTLAND—On Tuesday, the ACLU of Maine Foundation filed suit against two guards at the Cumberland County Jail, alleging that they used excessive force against a prisoner in 2010.  The ACLU of Maine represents Wilmer Moreno Recinos, who has since been deported to El Salvador.  The beating was captured on the jail’s security video, and one of the guards was disciplined for his action.

“All prisoners, including immigrants, deserve to be treated like human beings,” said Jodi Nofsinger of the law firm of Berman Simmons, who is cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Maine Foundation.  “The Constitution protects prisoners, but that protection is only meaningful when there are sanctions for violations.”

The incident took place in the evening of November 10, 2010, when Recinos approached the medical cart at the jail because he felt feverish and asthmatic.  Recinos suffers from a number of food allergies.  As he was being escorted back to his cell, one of the guards shoved him to the ground and began punching him repeatedly in his chest, even after Recinos balled up in a protective position. The other guard then pepper sprayed the supine Recinos in the face.  Recinos spent most of the rest of his time at the jail in the medical unit because of his injuries.

“The treatment our client received is inconsistent with the Consitution and inconsistent with the values of the people in charge at Cumberland County Jail,” said ACLU of Maine Foundation Legal Director Zachary Heiden, who is co-counsel on the case.  “There needs to be accountability when a violation like this occurs.”

The ACLU and its affiliates have produced seven major reports on immigration detention in the last four years and have lawsuits pending over detention conditions at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in Arizona, California, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Texas. These reports and litigation address every person’s constitutional rights to fair and humane treatment in the United States, including due process. The ACLU will continue to hold ICE, jails, and jail personnel accountable for humane treatment of those in their custody.

“What happened to Mr. Recinos is unfortunately common in our immigration detention system,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine Foundation.  “Inhumane treatment of immigrants in detention is a tragic but inevitable consequence of policies that dehumanize immigrants.”

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