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A correctional institution can be a clean, sterile, almost institution-like place that has aesthetics that lend themselves to clinical functions such as rehabilitation, reconciliation, restitution, and even retribution. Let's face it, the true punishment is in the boredom. But when indifference guides the aesthetics the building becomes uninhabitable, unhealthy, dangerous, and promotes inhumane treatment and behavior. Decay is the tone-setter. It is the wrapping on the present that is indifference to cruelty and depravity. From the mundane, such as rust, mold, and non-functioning plumbing fixtures to totally uninhabitable facilities that set the stage for unsupervised prisoners to conduct themselves as if they aren't human at all. Seemingly petty since we're talking about prison, it is the actual physical proof of indifference. See for yourself. 


The Story of Clarence Davis (1994)

Guards Have Duty to Protect Prisoners

Loaded on JUNE 15, 1994 published in Prison Legal News June, 1994, page 10


Oscar Williams was a state prisoner in the Department of Corrections. He was assaulted and beaten by two other prisoners in his dormitory. The guard on duty at the time, Clarence Davis, witnessed the attack but did not intervene. When Williams attempted to escape his assailants Davis closed and locked the dormitory door which left Williams trapped with his attackers. Davis belatedly summoned assistance and when the additional guards arrived they halted the beating. Williams requested medical attention and an hour later a nurse cleaned his wounds and recommended he be taken to a hospital. Two or three hours later he was taken to a hospital and received treatment.


Williams filed suit claiming that his eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated, first when Davis did nothing to halt the attack on him, secondly by the delay in receiving medical treatment. The case went to trial and at the conclusion of evidence the district court granted the defendants a directed verdict as a matter of law on all counts. The court of appeals for the eighth circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.


The appeals court noted that prison staff have an obligation to protect prisoners from harm by other prisoners. An eighth amendment violation occurs when a plaintiff shows "defendants were deliberately indifferent to his constitutional rights, either because they actually intended to deprive him of some right, or because they acted with reckless disregard of his right to be free from violent attacks by fellow inmates." "A prison official acts with deliberate indifference to an inmate's safety when the official is present at the time of an assault and fails to intervene or otherwise act to end the assault."


Listing cases where guard's failure to intervene in attacks was later held to be justified under the circumstances, the court concluded that in this case Davis presented no evidence or explanation as to why he failed to assist Williams. The district court also failed to explain the reason(s) it granted the defendant's motion thus depriving the appeals court of an opportunity to review the dismissal on its merits. This portion of the case was remanded for further proceedings. The appeals court upheld dismissal of the medical claims because Williams had presented no evidence to show that the warden was responsible for the delay in treatment. See: Williams v. Weller, 13 F.3d 1214 (8th Cir. 1994).

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