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Two lawsuits filed against York County

Greg Gross

A former York County Prison guard filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging she was terminated from her job after reporting guard malfeasance to supervisors and the warden.

In a separate civil suit, this one filed in federal court, a family member of Tiombe Kimana Carlos, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainee who hanged herself in the prison, claims the county failed to treat her "serious and chronic mental health needs," according to court filings.

ICE detainees are held at the county prison under an agreement with the federal government.

Carlos' family's wrongful death suit also names Primecare Medical Inc., which provides health and mental health care at the prison, and medical and corrections staff as defendants and seeks unspecified damages.

Former corrections officer Denise Keller's suit, which was filed in the York County Court of Common Pleas, seeks back wages and other damages, amounting to more than $23,000, and to have her reinstated as a guard.

The lawsuits: Keller, who was a legal aide in the U.S. Marine Corps JAG office before becoming a full-time corrections officer in early 2012, claims she filed numerous Officers Daily Reports to supervisors reporting wrongdoings by guards.

One she filed in September 2013 claims a fellow correctional officer failed to look in on inmates in the Intensive Care Unit in regular 15-minute intervals as required by prison policy, according to her lawsuit.

The unit holds inmates who are considered high risk for suicide.

An unnamed inmate committed suicide less than a month after Keller filed her report, the lawsuit notes.

Carlos used a sheet to hang herself on Oct. 23, 2013, after being transferred to a "non-suicide resistant cell." By the time guards found Carlos, she didn't have a pulse and was later pronounced dead at a hospital, according to her family's lawsuit. She was 34.

Carl Lindquist, the county spokesman, wrote in an email that he can't comment on pending litigation, but added safety of inmates is a top priority.

"If a suicide occurs, the prison conducts a thorough review to ensure proper procedures were followed and to evaluate whether any policy changes are warranted.  Any deficiencies identified are corrected," he said. "The (unfortunate) reality is that preventing all suicides is extremely difficult, if not impossible, regardless of whether an individual is incarcerated or living in the community."

Other allegations: Keller's lawsuit also alleges she reported the following to supervisors:

  • February 2014: Witnessed a corrections officer sexually harassing an ICE detainee and reported the incident. She was later suspended for five days for an altercation with the officer when she intervened.
  • May 2014: Reported an alleged sexual relationship between a guard and an inmate.
  • July 2014: Reported her suspicion of work release inmates returning to prison under the influence of drugs but weren't properly screened by guards.
  • August 2014: Reported her suspicion that ICE detainees were not receiving money deposited in their accounts.
  • March 2015: Reported that a correctional officer left an inmate in an opened and unlocked cell.
  • April 2015: Reported that a guard withheld food from a prisoner.

Keller was terminated from her job in June 2015 after an inmate with a known heroin addiction alleged the two had "contact of a physical nature," according to the suit. The suit calls that allegation false.

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