In recent years, the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora, New York is best known for the escape of two convicted killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, in 2015. The pair became friends with a civilian employee in the prison’s tailor shop, who gave them tools to aid their escape.
The two were on the run for nearly three weeks, when a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed Matt. Two days later, Sweat was apprehended after being shot by another officer. He survived. Their exploits were documented in the 2017 TV series, Escape from Dannemora.
Now, another prisoner who worked in the infamous tailor shop, Andrew J. Champion, 35, has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albany alleging a Dannemora guard helped another inmate severely beat him while Champion was in the prison’s medical unit.
Champion, a chronic offender in prison on burglary and sex abuse convictions, arrived at Dannemora in December 2017. He claims another inmate invited him to join a prison gang, but he refused. According to his lawsuit, corrections officers allowed the gang to exist and gave members preferential treatment.
A Beating and a Broken Skull
Not long after arriving at Dannemora, Champion suffered a seizure and was put into the medical unit. When he didn’t receive special New Year’s Eve meal, Champion complained to the guard, who replied that he needed to “pay his dues.” The following morning, Champion alleges his electronic cell gate opened before it was supposed to and he saw a gang inmate holding a white sock with a heavy item inside it.
The gang member began beating him while the corrections officer watched. The gang member beat Champion unconscious, and Champion later woke up in the hospital with a broken skull. Prison officials claim Champion’s injuries were due to an epileptic seizure, but his lawsuit contends the injuries are inconsistent with a seizure, but quite consistent with a beating. Champion is now serving his sentence at a Washington County prison.
Other Inmate Accusations
Champion’s accusation are far from the first by Dannemora inmates contending guards beat inmates. In 2015, following the notorious escape, the state Inspector’s General’s office issued two reports concerning the prison, but did not look into inmate claims of beatings by guards.
Some inmates were beaten to keep them from speaking with investigators, according to certain prisoners. Other inmates relate stories of having bags put over their heads by guards and then suffering severe beatings resulting in serious injuries.
A Prison Guard Speaks
James Donah served as a corrections officer at Dannemora from 2004 to 2010, but later became an inmate there after a domestic violence conviction. He told a reporter for The Times-Union in 2015 that inmates were commonly beaten and that particular officers at Dannemora were known to do the “dirty work.”
Donah said officers also framed inmates, and he had done so himself. In October 2010, a mentally ill inmate was fatally beaten by corrections officers, an incident Donah said he heard about but didn’t witness.
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.