Colo. Sheriff’s Office Settles Suit
(05/10/2011)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has settled a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union accused it of abusing inmates.

The Sheriff’s Office called the settlement “very favorable” in a news release, saying it would save the county a large amount of money.

Under the settlement, the county reimbursed the ACLU $69,200 for its litigation costs, while each party will pay its own attorney fees and other costs. The legal fees for three large firms working on the inmates’ litigation ranged from $700,000 to $1 million.

Four inmates – Samuel Lincoln, Clarence Vandehey, William Langley and Jared Hogue – filed the lawsuit in 2006. Lincoln has been sentenced to life in prison for an attempted murder conviction for shooting at Mesa County sheriff’s deputies and attempting to kill someone in the desert near Grand Junction, Colo.

The suit accused the sheriff’s office of inappropriately using restraint chairs, pepper spray and other forceful measures, denying mental healthcare to inmates and using harsh discipline without due process.

The sheriff’s office said the settlement required the jail to make minor changes to internal reporting forms and endorse practices it implemented voluntarily before the settlement.

The jail now allows uncooperative inmates to cool down instead of immediately extracting them from cells using force, has scrapped restraint chairs in favor of padded cells, increased the availability of mental healthcare and amended the jail disciplinary process to allow inmates to make complaints and appeal decisions.

“We have made changes and improved upon the jail operations each year while maintaining fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “The way our deputies and staff delivered services withstood the scrutiny of the small army of lawyers and experts that the ACLU recruited to find fault with the jail.”

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