June 19, 2018
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Knox County inmates threaten to sue, say they were forced to stay in cells with urine and feces

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Four people who served time in the Knox County Jail have each threatened to sue the county for $400,000 for what they claim were violations of their rights, including being placed in urine and feces-covered cells.

The Bangor Daily News this week acquired two separate notices of claims filed in February by attorney Andrews Campbell of Bowdoinham on behalf of Ricky Block, Jason Goucher, Joshua Anthony and Charles Johnson.

Inmates are regularly exposed to pathogens by their placement in hazardous cells and by willful disregard of the hazards, Campbell claimed in those notices.

A notice of claim is required to be filed before a lawsuit can be filed in state court against the government. No lawsuit has been filed in connection to the matter, Campbell said by phone Wednesday.

The notices allege that between Jan. 3 and Jan. 14, the inmates were denied access to their Bibles except on an extremely limited basis. The four were also denied access to legal papers except on extremely limited basis.

And the four were “forced without proper gear to live in cells and a cell block which was infested with human excrement and urine, forced if [they] did not want to live in filth to try to clean up feces and urine in cells [they were] put in, and with being forced to remain in said hazardous cells which could not be fully cleaned.”

The county and Jail Administrator John Hinkley are named as potential defendants in the claims.

Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison said Wednesday she could not comment on the specific claims by those inmates.

The sheriff said, however, that inmates are treated well in Knox County.

“We treat inmates well here and have good progress getting them involved in changing their lives. Legal paperwork and Bibles are not kept from inmates,” she said.

A lot of church volunteers come to the jail and encourage inmates to get involved in churches, she said.

In regard to the cleanliness of the jail, she said the county strives at all times to keep it clean and have protective clothing available when cleaning is needed.

Johnson had been at the jail awaiting trial on an arson charge. He later pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal mischief and burglary. Block is awaiting trial on multiple burglary and theft charges. Goucher was awaiting trial and has since pleaded guilty to charges that included operating a motor vehicle after habitual offender revocation. Anthony was awaiting trial and has since pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

Last month, a Washington woman filed a federal lawsuit against Knox County claiming a guard, who has since been let go, coerced her into having sex on several occasions.

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