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  • Writer's pictureSam Orlando

Inmate Files Federal Lawsuit Against Middle River Regional Jail Officials for Civil Rights Violations

Written by: Sam Orlando

STAUNTON, VIRGINIA - Imagine being an inmate, locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, and without access to effective medical care. Such are the allegations of James Lee Huffman, a Middle River Regional Jail inmate, who has initiated a federal lawsuit against Jail (MRRJ) officials, including Major Leslie Powell. Filed on February 12, 2024, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke VA, the case (Civil Action No. 7:24-cv-00110) emerges under the auspices of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Huffman's grievances stem from several incidents that he alleges have violated his federal rights during his incarceration at MRRJ, located at 350 Technology Drive, Staunton, VA. Among the core issues raised are the conditions of his confinement, the denial of adequate mental health care, and the obstruction of his access to necessary legal documents.

Lawsuit Overview

  • Maximum Custody Classification: Huffman claims that on September 18, 2023, he was placed under maximum custody not due to disciplinary actions but because of a high-level classification. This decision led to him being confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, significantly impacting his mental health.

  • Mental Health Concerns: After experiencing severe anxiety and depression, Huffman sought help from the jail's mental health services. Despite being prescribed medication for depression and anxiety, he asserts that the mental health doctor failed to inform him of the specific conditions being treated.

  • Denial of Legal Resources: Huffman further alleges that after starting a form under the 1983 Civil Rights Act, the jail officials refused to provide him with a printout of his account transactions and denied access to 1983 forms for him and other inmates.

Legal Relief Sought

Huffman seeks monetary damages and an injunction from the court, indicating a serious appeal for both personal redress and systemic changes within the jail's operations. Additionally, he has expressed a preference for a trial by jury, underscoring his readiness to bring these issues to a public forum.

Implications and Next Steps

This lawsuit highlights critical issues regarding inmate rights, the administration of mental health care in correctional facilities, and the access to legal resources for those incarcerated. As the case progresses, it will not only shed light on Huffman's personal ordeal but also potentially impact the policies and practices at Middle River Regional Jail and beyond.

Legal experts and civil rights advocates are closely watching this case, recognizing its potential to influence broader discussions and reforms in the treatment of inmates across the United States. The outcome could set significant precedents for how correctional facilities manage mental health care, inmate classification, and the provision of legal aids to those under their care.

As the legal battle unfolds, the community and stakeholders await further developments, hoping for a resolution that upholds the principles of justice and human dignity for all inmates.


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