(Greenville News) - Another inmate who was stabbed during last month's deadly prison riot is suing the S.C. Department of Corrections, adding to a growing list of lawsuits hoping to spur landmark changes to the prison system.
Reakwon Latray Watson, an inmate at Lee Correctional Institution, filed a lawsuit against SCDC on Monday, about four weeks after the nation's deadliest prison riot in a quarter-century.
Watson suffered about eight stab wounds to his head, arms, hands and back after a group of about 10 to 15 inmates ambushed him, according to the suit.
The lawsuit filed Monday states that there were no correctional officers present so he had no protection and no medical attention to his injuries after the stabbing.
"After completing their violent attack on the Plaintiff, the attackers then moved on to other inmates within the unit, where they violently attacked and stabbed four other inmates," the suit states.
The attacks went on for several hours and resulted in seven inmate deaths and at least 20 inmates injured.
With no staff present, Watson "was forced to bleed and suffer for several hours before correctional staff finally came onto the wing," according to the suit.
After receiving treatment, Watson claims that he continues to suffer from pain, paranoia and nightmares, the suit states.
"Fear. Fear is the big thing. There's not much confidence in the security and safety there. He doesn't know if it's going to happen again," said Robert Jones, Watson's Greenville-based attorney. "If it happens again, are you going to survive?"
Jones said Watson still had several wounds bandaged when he went to visit him in prison two weeks ago before filing the suit.
Watson isn't the first inmate injured in the attack to file a suit. Last week, two other inmates filed a lawsuit explaining their significant stab wounds and making similar claims against the prison system.
"The goal of this lawsuit and all of the lawsuits is multi-faceted. One is to raise awareness to ongoing problems going on for years in the S.C. Department of Corrections,” Jones said. “And hopefully these cases can be a catalyst for prison reform and we can get some proper funding in there so these inmates, while in the care of the state, do not have to worry about their safety.”
Jones said he is representing several other inmates at Lee but has not yet filed lawsuits in those cases. He said he expects many more suits to be filed against SCDC in the weeks and months ahead.
"This is gong to snowball into a huge case," Jones said. "You've got seven individuals who died. Right there, that's seven wrongful death cases."
Watson, 21, has been at Lee Correctional since November 2015, after having previously been housed at Kirkland Correctional, Allendale Correctional and Tyger River Correctional, according to SCDC inmate records. He is expected to be released in 2020.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and attempted armed robbery out of Bamberg County, records show.
Records also show several disciplinary infractions while incarcerated including public masturbation, use and possession of narcotics, possession of a weapon, damage to property, failing to obey orders, striking an employee and stealing.
Watson's suit also shines light on the system's struggle to retain staff, calling out the system's failure to position an adequate number of trained officers at numerous locations throughout Lee Correctional.
The suit also claims that prison staff were aware of the competing gangs being housed in the same area and the likelihood of violence as a result. The staff was also aware of the high number of inmates who either carry "shanks" on them or who have access to them, the suit states.
The cell doors and unit doors were also not locked before or during the mass violence, which was in violation of SCDC policy, the suit reads.
"If these cases don’t spur any action, I don’t know what’s going to," Jones said. "I don't know how many more people need to die."
Watson is requesting a jury trial. He is seeking judgment against SCDC to be awarded actual and consequential damages in an amount to be determined by the courts.
SCDC has declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy not to speak about pending litigation.