Guards in the St. Louis jail known as the City Workhouse forced inmates to engage in “gladiator-style combat,” bet on the fights and used inmates to punish other inmates, a federal civil suit filed today claims.
The suit, filed on behalf of seven inmates who were attackers, victims or both, says that at least one attack was caught on camera.
Some inmates named in the suit were both victim and attacker, the suit claims. Lawyers for those inmates say guards sometimes used promises of special privileges, extra food and snacks to enlist an attacker. Other times, they say, an inmate was himself threatened with attack unless he agreed to fight.
The lawsuit seeks class status to represent all inmates who may have been involved. It also asks a judge to order the removal of prisoners from the workhouse and for $150 million or more in damages.
Sam Dotson, St. Louis' director of operations, had not yet seen the suit when interviewed by a reporter. He said that the incident on the surveillance tape had been brought to the attention of police and prosecutors by jail staff and officials, and that the guards were immediately placed on leave and criminally charged.
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