By: Ryan Pettigrew
America has turned into a litigious nation where meritless lawsuits get filed all the time as get rich quick schemes for the lazy. Unfortunately, such lawsuits make it more difficult for the few with merit to gather support since its human nature to categorize. This is especially true for prisoner lawsuits, where it’s believed that they’re constantly trying to manipulate the system as if they’re entitled to comfort. Being a former prisoner, I even grew frustrated in how difficult my path through the civil courts was being made due to the foolish lawsuits by other prisoners, so I understand the negative opinion of most prisoner lawsuits. However, it’s foolish to have opinions on categories because it discredits the opinion giver; as an independent analysis and understanding of the subject is required for a valid opinion.
I’m suing the Colorado Department of Corrections over two main issues: 1) that after they diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder, they kept me in conditions (solitary confinement) that are known to worsen the symptoms of mental illness for eight years and 2) for a 24 hour period of physical and psychological torture they subjected me to.
Many would falsely argue that the first issue was warranted due to misconceptions of the solitary confinement process; assuming that I did something so extreme that I needed to be punished to that severity. I beat up a rapist who tried to join the prison gang I belonged to when he knew that we didn’t accept sex offenders and would run a background check on him. Had he chosen to stick to himself, his dirty secret wouldn’t have been discovered, so his beat down was a consequence of his actions. The assault didn’t even result in serious injuries and similar assaults happen on a daily basis in prison so it can’t be said that this was so far beyond normal prison behavior that it required a punishment well in excess of the typical 30 days in segregation. Prison is a violent world with its own set of rules, that’s reality. My overall behavior in solitary confinement was exemplary and I was still held in there six and a half years beyond the average stay.
The Federal District Court of Colorado ruled that this claim violated the statute of limitations because I didn’t file it within the first two years of my stay in solitary confinement; basically ruling that because I didn’t file in the first two years, that they’re free to violate my constitutional rights for the rest of my life. I was in there for eight years and filed while still in solitary confinement; so what do the first two years have to do with the violation of my constitutional rights at the moment I filed it? My response wasn’t very professional but true: that if your (Federal District Court of Colorado) ruling becomes the legal interpretation of the statute of limitations law, then since I’ve been under federal investigation for selling drugs and they didn’t file within two years, does that mean I’m free to openly sell drugs like the Colorado Department of Corrections is free to torture me? I’m retired from crime but I proved my point.
The second issue was a 24 hour period that I was placed in a cold cell with vomit and urine all over the floor without clothing, bedding, hygiene or anything. I had shackles on my bare ankles for four hours despite being in an isolated cell and had to exercise to keep warm so they dug deep into my ankles. Eventually I had to take a bowel movement where they denied me toilet paper and soap so I had feces stuck to me and had to eat two meals by hand afterwards. Not only is that a sanitary issue but considering I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which manifests in the need for cleanliness, their denial almost pushed me beyond the brink of losing my mind. It’s the equivalent of forcing someone with arachnophobia into a spider pit, and in this case, the psychological suffering was made worse by the fact that they also employed sleep deprivation techniques, which are considered torture by the Geneva Convention.
The Federal District Court of Colorado dismissed this claim as well, ruling that the 24 hour period wasn’t enough to violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of Cruel and Unusual punishment. My argument was that, as an American, I’m pretty sure that any period of torture violated the Constitution. So now I’m waiting for a decision but even if the Tenth Circuit Appellate Court rules against me, I’ll file a Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court as recent attention brought to the solitary confinement issue makes this ripe for litigation.
I’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds…