KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two local attorneys, Henry C. Service and Arimeta DuPree, are gathering information and documents for a legal takedown of the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Service told 41 Action News on Saturday afternoon that he’s currently working to certify a group of several dozen inmates for a class-action lawsuit against Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri.
Among the complaints, which family and friends voiced during a press briefing Saturday with the Service and DuPree, conditions at Crossroads are unsanitary, the food service is unsatisfactory, and understaffing has led to Constitutional violations of inmates’ rights.
“People visiting contracted MRSA,” Service said, referring to a drug-resistant strain of staphylococcus bacteria common in some prisons and hospitals. “It’s unsanitary and there’s been no action from the health department. If a child can get it from visiting, imagine what it’s like for the people in there.”
Family and friends complain of being able to visit loved ones.
“It’s not a staffing issue,” Service said. “It’s a human rights issue.”
Service and DuPree are asking inmates and their families to gather relevant documents as well as lodge and log complaints as part of the evidence-gathering process.
The problems at the prison haven’t been limited to inmate complaints.
The prison has consistently denied access to legislators and press seeking to assess the facility’s conditions, especially since the May unrest, in violation of Missouri law.
“Not to confuse the issue, but it sounds similar to another set of facilities where people were subjected to inhumane treatment and access to document the conditions was denied,” Service said. “That seems to be the new normal. You cover it up, and don’t even do a good cover up, then you look the press or politicians right in the eye and say everything is fine when it’s not.”
Crossroads may only be the tip of the iceberg.
“We want to expand it,” Service said.
But for now, he’s content to try and make a difference at Crossroads.
Some family members and friends of Crossroads inmates are planning protests, hoping to draw more attention to the issues at the facility.