Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Faces Legal Backlash for Detaining Man on Non-Jailable Charge
Written by: Sam Orlando
A recently filed lawsuit is shedding light on alleged misconduct and constitutional violations by the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority (SWVRJA). Christopher Coleman, the plaintiff in the case, accuses the SWVRJA and unidentified individuals referred to as SWVRJA Does of detaining him for over five days (105 hours) for a Class 4 Misdemeanor charge that, if he had been found guilty, would not have resulted in jail time.
The lawsuit alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The law allows individuals to seek redress for deprivation of constitutional rights by persons acting under color of state law. In this case, Coleman alleges that the defendants acted under such conditions to infringe his rights.
According to the complaint, Coleman's rights to be free from false imprisonment, unreasonable seizure, unlawful search and seizure of his property, and the unlawful reading of his personal papers without a warrant, were violated. The detention period is cited as far exceeding any time frame contemplated by the special "protective custody" mechanism in Virginia procedure.
The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants read a personal mental health log found among Coleman's effects, leading to a unilateral decision to extend his confinement. This decision, it's argued, inflicts upon Coleman's Fifth Amendment right to due process and his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.
Moreover, the complaint suggests that the defendants neglected to provide appropriate care and treatment, even though they had an obligation to do so. This is regarded as a further constitutional violation and contrary to the Minimum Standards for Jails and Lockups as outlined in the Virginia Administrative Code.
On a state level, the lawsuit brings a claim of false imprisonment. It asserts that the detention was without the plaintiff's consent, unlawful, and amounted to "over-detention". The charge on which the plaintiff was held was later dismissed in the General District Court of Buchanan County.
In the wake of these events, Coleman seeks judgment for compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. He claims that he suffered severe physical, mental, and emotional injuries and damages due to the alleged misconduct.
The lawsuit, one of several prominent cases shining a spotlight on prison reform and inmates' rights, is likely to fuel the ongoing national discussion about the conduct and responsibilities of correctional facilities.