ACLU’s complaint against jail rejected
DENVER ” U.S. District Judge Walker Miller Wednesday denied the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for an emergency restraining order against Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
The ACLU asked Miller to prevent Vallario and his deputies from limiting attorneys’ access to inmates at the Garfield County Jail. The current policy requires jailers to ask inmates who their attorney is or what organization they are seeking legal representation from before an attorney can meet with an inmate.
The ACLU began investigating allegations of inmate abuse at the jail after receiving a complaint from Clarence Vandehey, a prisoner who had participated in an alleged November 2005 jail riot and had allegedly been placed in a restraint chair on multiple occasions.
The lawsuit alleges that Vandehey had been forced to lie in the pepper dust for 15 minutes before being strapped in the chair. Twice in January he had allegedly been given outdoor recreation time in sub-zero temperatures without shoes.
ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said the organization is concerned because Vallario has no written policy for the jail regulating the use of restraint chairs, pepperball guns or Tasers, which the lawsuit says have injured or killed prisoners in other jails.
Garfield County Undersheriff Tim Templon, in an interview Monday, denied the American Civil Liberties Union’s allegations against Vallario and the Garfield County Jail.
Templon said the jail’s restraint chair is used when an inmate becomes combative and tries to injure himself or another person.
“What else do you do with a person like that?” Templon said. “It’s actually for their own benefit.”
He said restrained inmates are monitored by medical staff.
In denying the ACLU’s request for a restraining order, Miller said Wednesday that though there was some “bureaucratic arrogance at work” on the part of both Vallario and the ACLU, ACLU lawyer Mark Silverstein had not shown “clear and unequivocal evidence” to prove the group’s claim.
Miller added that there’s no evidence to show that the ACLU lawyers are being treated differently than any other lawyers who want to meet with inmates at the jail.
Silverstein said after Miller’s ruling that the ACLU’s work will continue despite Miller’s refusal to grant a restraining order.
To illustrate that the jail is not violating inmates’ rights and is operated professionally, Templon cited a 2005 facilities assessment report written by the federal National Institute of Corrections (NIC), an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The report, written after an NIC inspector visited the jail over three days in August and September 2005, says the jail “is extremely well maintained and managed,” and “staff is professional in their demeanor and treats the inmates with respect, which is returned (with very few exceptions) by the inmates to the staff.”