Loudoun County Inmate Strapped in Chair and Burned: Torture Allegations Rock Northern Virginia
Video Credit: Attorneys for Richard Piland
Written by: Sam Orlando
Loudoun County, Virginia - The use of torture against inmates is a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is a treaty to which the United States is a signatory. The ICCPR prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The United Nations has also condemned the use of torture in all forms and has called for its eradication worldwide, according to human rights advocates, who are calling for greater oversight of the use of force in jails and prisons. A recent lawsuit filed by Richard Piland against the Loudoun County Sheriff, seeking $7 Million dollars in damages claiming Piland was tortured at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center, has raised serious concerns about the use of excessive force against prisoners. The lawsuit claims Piland was forcibly removed from his cell, strapped to a restraint chair, and placed under scalding hot water that caused serious burns. It was later determined that the shower "malfunctioned", causing near boiling water to be sprayed all over Piland.
The incident, which took place on September 17, 2021, has sparked outrage and calls for accountability. In a social media post, Piland's mother, Mindy Gunnels Beach, said, “They have a duty to protect the prisoners they patrol. Not only did they not do that, but this action seemed criminal." Beach has called for a criminal investigation.
The use of restraint chairs and other forms of excessive force in jails and prisons is a serious concern for human rights advocates. The United Nations has condemned the use of torture in all forms and has called for the eradication of torture worldwide. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory, prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
In response to the incident, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office has launched an investigation, and several officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave. The investigation is ongoing, and it is unclear whether criminal charges will be filed. The deputies involved are on paid vacation, which of course begs the question: How will this ever change, if accountability is a paid vacation?
In an interview with WUSA Channel 9 News, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman claimed the shower Piland was forced into and strapped in front of "malfunctioned". However, in the video one of the guards can be heard referencing that he did not know which switch was which, and he said "good luck to you". Piland didn't get luck. Instead, he got first and second degree burns over his arms and torso. When asked if the shower should have been checked more often, Sheriff Chapman struggled to answer, saying "that's something you'll have to check with General Services on... not... I really don't know... i, you know, i, i mean we assume that these things are working properly".
The incident has once again raised questions about the use of force in the criminal justice system and the need for greater oversight and accountability. Human rights advocates are calling for stricter enforcement of international treaties and rules to ensure that prisoners are not subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The outcome of the investigation and any potential legal action remains to be seen, but the incident has highlighted the urgent need for reform in the criminal justice system.