Two Kentucky inmates sue state, prison officials after reported violent assaults

The Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.
The Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange. LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER

Two Kentucky inmates have filed a federal lawsuit accusing several state and prison officials of under-staffing and negligence that reportedly led to multiple serious-injury assaults.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Kentucky State Reformatory inmates Robert Morgan and Leonard Andrew on Monday. They allege that under-staffing at the LaGrange reformatory creates a dangerous environment where “violent inmates prey on vulnerable or isolated inmates,” according to court documents.

On Aug. 6, 2016, Morgan and Andrew were assaulted in an unsupervised recreation yard at the reformatory, according to the lawsuit. Andrew was knocked unconscious and Morgan suffered a permanent eye injury that required surgery.

About a month later, inmates circulated word of a $1,000 bounty on Morgan calling for his murder, according to court records.

On Sept. 11, 2016, Morgan was chased from the recreation yard, through a dormitory and into his cell. He was then stabbed 17 times and suffered a concussion, a collapsed lung and multiple lacerations, according to the lawsuit. Four jail officials listed as defendants in the lawsuit are accused of seeing the assault and doing nothing to stop it.

In May of 2016, Morgan wrote a letter to Governor Matt Bevin and Rodney Ballard, who was the commissioner of corrections at the time, according to the lawsuit. Ballard, who previously worked as a Fayette County jailer, resigned as commissioner in May of this year.

The lawsuit was filed against the state, justice and public safety secretary John Tilley, corrections commissioner James Erwin, warden Aaron Smith, reformatory psychologist Julie Barber, and corrections officers Carlton Jobe, Alvin Brown, Denny Acosta and Darrell Bratton. An officer with a last name of Jones was also named in the suit.

Morgan is being held on convictions of burglary, theft and possession of a controlled substance, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Andrew is being held on convictions of wanton endangerment and second-degree escape.