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Lawsuit: Southern Colorado Supermax Prison is 'monster factory'

9:13 PM, Jun 18, 2012   |    comments
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The Supermax Prison in southern Colorado has housed terrorists like Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski.

A new federal lawsuit alleges that medication is being kept from prisoners with severe mental illnesses, causing long-term damage.

The lawsuit alleges that some prisoners who weren't given the proper medication mutilated themselves.

Attorney Ed Aro, with the law firm Arnold and Porter, is representing 11 inmates in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons, alleging barbaric treatment.

"It's a horror show on all sorts of different levels," Aro said.

The inmates range from murderers to bank robbers.

Aro says the inmates all have mental illnesses that aren't being properly treated. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, "prisoners wail, scream and bang on the walls of their cells. Some mutilate their bodies with razors and shards of glass."

"It is brutal, rather than oriented towards treatment," Aro said.

Aro points to the case of 47-year-old David Shelby. He is serving a 24-year-sentence for threatening the President.

Aro says he is bipolar and suffers from other disorders and is not getting enough medical treatment to resolve his symptoms.

A few years ago Shelby claimed God told him to eat his finger. According to the lawsuit, Shelby cut off his pinky and ate it.

"The things I've learned in the eight months of interviewing people down there are shameful, and they embarrass me as an American," Aro said.

The lawsuit says John Jay Powers suffers from PTSD, among other disorders, and up until recently, hasn't been properly medicated.

As a result, the lawsuit says Powers mutilated himself, caused permanent disfigurement, and thinks of suicide daily.

Law firm Arnold and Porter is handling the case pro bono, and Aro says they aren't suing for money.

"We're asking for a court order directing that the Bureau of Prisons reform the way the mental health care is dealt with at this facility," Aro said.

The lawsuit says the broader concern is that "some of these men will be released as walking time bombs who may at any time explode in rage and kill or maim innocent people."

A spokesperson for The Bureau of Prisons told 9NEWS Monday, they won't comment on pending litigation.

The Bureau of Prisons has 60 days from when they receive the lawsuit to respond to it. After that happens, a number of legal proceedings will begin. Aro says it could be a few years before a trial begins.

Family members of inmate Jose Vega also filed a lawsuit Monday on his behalf.

It claims the prison didn't give Vega the medication he needed and regularly disciplined him when he acted out as a result.

Vega eventually hung himself. The lawsuit says his death was preventable, and the fault of the prison.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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