Inmate sues TN prison officials; claims he was beaten

(THE TENNESSEAN) A Nashville man who has mental impairments has sued state prison officials in federal court, charging that he was beaten bloody while jailed near Kingston, Tenn.

Attorneys with the Disability Law and Advocacy Center of Tennessee filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of 25-year-old Kyle Kirchner, charging that his rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated in a Nov. 16, 2012 attack.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Corrections declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, which names the department, Commissioner Derrick Schofield, Morgan County Correctional Complex Warden Tony Howerton, and two former guards, Arron Silviera and Jonathan Edgemon.

Howerton remains employed and the two guards have been terminated, the spokeswoman said.

According to the lawsuit, Kirchner, who has bipolar disorder and other mental impairments, was beaten during a lockdown situation at the prison in Wartburg, Tenn., known as MCCX. He had returned to find his cell door locked and laid down to wait for correctional officers. The lawsuit says Kirchner was kicked in the face, punched, jabbed, slapped in the face, choked and slammed into the floor.

It goes on to say he was given inadequate care in the prison afterward and not seen by a doctor for approximately 18 days, and later transferred. He suffered nightmares and distress, and was later charged and found guilty in a correctional hearing for "interference" with guard duties, without being able to attend the hearing, he charges.

The lawsuit calls Kirchner's treatment, "part of a pattern and practice of physical attacks on individuals with disabilities" in state prisons and demands an unspecified cash award for his suffering. The lawsuit charges his eligibility for parole was also delayed.

Davidson County court records show Kirchner convicted of resisting arrest and aggravated burglary in 2007 and 2008, and then of aggravated robbery in 2010. The latter conviction included a 12-year prison sentence.

He was denied parole in April 2012, according to state records. He is being held at Northeast Correctional Complex in eastern Tennessee.

As a teenager, Kirchner spent time in juvenile detention centers, according to a story by The Tennessean in 2006. In interviews then, his parents described their son being beaten by other teens at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville, causing him to be hospitalized.

They told their story at a time when the facility, run by the Department of Children's Services, was under scrutiny by an oversight group for poor supervision and an atmosphere of chaos within its walls. The department contested those findings.

His parents said Kirchner had a history of running from facilities, was addicted to drugs, and had stolen and wrecked his parents' car.


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