Written by: Sam Orlando
The lawsuit claims a pattern of harassment, retaliation, and violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Written by: Sam Orlando
ROANOKE, VA — A federal lawsuit was filed on September 14, 2023, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia by Jonah Dwight Sims, an inmate at Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia. The lawsuit, filed under the Civil Rights Act 42 U.S.C. §1983, accuses multiple correctional officers and staff of violating Sims' federal rights, notably those provided under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
The suit alleges several instances of misconduct over a span of days, beginning on September 8, 2023. According to Sims, while using the restroom, Correctional Officer Akers paused to look at him, making him uncomfortable. A day later, Sims claims that when he requested phone access to contact the outside world, Officer Akers responded with a sexual innuendo, stating, "I'll give it to you if you show me some."
Sims' account alleges that when he tried to lodge a formal PREA complaint, he faced numerous obstacles, including a refusal to call supervisory personnel and a lack of access to a phone for lodging his complaint. The complaint details Sims’ growing sense of being targeted for retaliation, as several other staff members allegedly refused to address his grievances adequately.
One notable event detailed in the lawsuit occurred during an interaction with Sgt. N.C. Cobb, who was wearing a body camera. Sims alleges that Sgt. Cobb told him, “Nothing is going to be done about your complaint,” adding that he should forget about following any rules or policies. According to Sims, Lt. J.R. Massingill later arrived and also failed to provide him access to the phone to lodge his complaint.
PREA and Federal Rights
The focus of the lawsuit is the violation of rights under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. "It was never about the claim by itself...But this suit is about the mistreatment of my claim, and of me as a person. Yes, I am an inmate, but I have rights," states the lawsuit.
Sims seeks the firing of all parties involved and $500,000 in damages for mental anguish. He also has requested a jury trial.
The lawsuit is significant not only for Sims but for the oversight of correctional facilities nationwide, spotlighting the question of whether inmates' federally protected rights are genuinely respected within the walls of prisons like Red Onion State.
The lawsuit names several defendants, including but not limited to Correctional Officers Akers, J. Barnett, A.G. Tompa, and Mahombs, along with Sgts. N.C. Cobb and N. Lewis, and Lts. J.R. Massingill and Taylor.
As of now, there has been no response from Red Onion State Prison or the Virginia Department of Corrections regarding the lawsuit. Breaking Through will bring you updates on this lawsuit as the Defendants file their answers or other motions.
Legal proceedings are expected to continue, with potential impacts on the Virginia prison system and perhaps prison systems nationwide, especially as they relate to inmates' rights under PREA and other federal protections.
For updates on this case and other news, stay tuned to Breaking Through News!