A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury has awarded $4 million in damages to a former state prison inmate who was brutally beaten by three other inmates at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in 2017, according to his attorney.
Cary Hansel, an attorney for the former inmate, Michael Young, said the jury found the state of Maryland, the center’s former warden and a corrections officer responsible for damages arising from a Christmas Day 2017 attack on his client.
Hansel said Young was attacked in full view of a corrections officer after he had complained about sexual harassment by a guard at the state prison in Hagerstown.
Young, 47, sustained 17 stab wounds, a broken orbital bone and broken nasal cavity, Hansel said.
The former prisoner claimed that his cell door was opened by a corrections officer, Jeremy Wright, who then ignored his pleas for help, his attorney said.
Hansel said Young tried to escape to the recreation hall, but was attacked a second time in full view of Wright, who failed to intervene until the attack was over.
Neither Wright nor the attackers were ever charged or punished, according to Hansel. Officials did not interview Wright after the attacks, Hansel added.
“Maryland’s correctional system is in desperate need of radical reform. Incarcerated persons are subject to brutal beatings and murder as a result of the negligence and even cooperation of the State and its employees. We will continue to fight for the constitutional rights of all people until they are fully respected,” Hansel said in a written statement.
LaToya Gray, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, said the state was reviewing the court’s judgment.
“The DPSCS legal team is still examining this case and the court decision, and cannot comment at this time,” Gray said.
The Attorney General’s Office did not have any immediate comment.
Hansel said the attack and the way it was handled underscore the racial divide within the state’s correctional system.
Young is Black. Wright and former warden Richard Dovey, both of whom were named in the suit, are white.
In Maryland, Black people make up 31% of the state’s population, but represent 52% of those in jail and 69% of people in prison.
Tuesday, the Circuit Court jury found negligence on the part of Dovey and Wright, resulting in an award of $1 million against each.
The jury awarded Young an additional $2 million based on what the jury found to be a persistent pattern and practice of unconstitutional mistreatment of an incarcerated person by the state of Maryland, according to Hansel.
The five-day civil trial was held in Baltimore County because the state Division of Corrections is headquartered there.
Hansel said he expected the state to ask the court to reduce the verdict to an arbitrary cap of $800,000.
“We will fight to protect the jury’s decision,” he said.
Young, who was released from custody in 2020 after serving time for a robbery charge, wrote in a text message to The Baltimore Banner that he was surprised by the verdict because “no one ever” wins against the state.
Young wrote that the verdict is the best day of his life beside his wedding day. He also wrote that the correction system needs “more training and staffing.”
Young originally complained to Dovey that he feared for his life when he was housed in a facility where he had complained of sexual harassment by guards, according to Hansel.
“The sexual harassment involved a guard having him perform extra strip searches, including spreading his buttocks multiple unnecessary times, and offering him additional visitation with his wife if the guard can touch him. He refused. The guard who harassed him was not the same guard who opened the door so he could be attacked,” Hansel said.
In a Feb. 14, 2017, letter, Young wrote Dovey that guards were ignoring his complaints and that he had previously been attacked by an inmate who said guards ordered the attack. The warden failed to perform any sort of investigation despite repeated calls from Young’s wife over the next 10 months, Hansel stated.
“Mr. Young went through something incredibly horrific and entirely preventable,” said Tiana Boardman, a lawyer who tried the case with Hansel. “We’re thankful that the jury not only heard him, but held the State and their employees accountable.”