Former detainee sues defunct for-profit jail in Leavenworth over 2021 stabbing

CoreCivic Leavenworth was described as a ‘hell hole’ by a federal judge in Kansas.

By: - July 25, 2023 3:45 pm

CoreCivic's Leavenworth Detention Center was a hotbed for drugs and violence. It stopped housing federal pretrial inmates at the end of 2021. (Allison Kite/Kansas Reflector)

A former inmate of a now-defunct private jail in Leavenworth is suing the facility’s operators for running a facility so “dangerous, understaffed and insecure” that he was stabbed in 2021.

The lawsuit, filed last month in Wyandotte County and amended Monday, says CoreCivic, one of the country’s largest private prison operators, and its Leavenworth-based employees acted recklessly, if not intentionally, in their operation of the Leavenworth Detention Center.

The facility was a detention center contracted to house detainees awaiting trial in federal courts. Its contract with the U.S. Marshals Service ended in December 2021 under an executive order barring the U.S. Department of Justice from renewing contracts with private prison operators.

While in operation, it was criticized by defense attorneys and a judge for all-too-common violence within its walls. An audit by the Department of Justice in 2017 found the facility was so understaffed it couldn’t cover all of the mandatory security posts.

“Despite the DOJ’s warnings, defendants … kept prioritizing profit over safety,” the lawsuit says.

CoreCivic, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, has yet to file a response.

Ryan Gustin, a spokesman for CoreCivic, said in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiff in the case, Joshua Braddy, was stabbed in July 2021 by three other detainees. He was transported to the hospital, and while he survived, he “has suffered severe physical and emotional injuries,” the lawsuit says.

Braddy’s lawsuit names his alleged attackers, former staff of the facility, and CoreCivic and affiliated companies. It alleges assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and civil conspiracy and agency.

Braddy is seeking damages for emotional distress and punitive damages against the defendants.

Kansas Reflector previously reported the facility struggled with understaffing, pervasive drugs and severe violence. A federal judge described the facility during a sentencing hearing as “an absolute hell hole.”

A public defender said at the time that clients that “have been in the hardest federal prisons” were “terrified” at CoreCivic’s Leavenworth facility.

Detainees spent weeks on lockdown in the summer and fall of 2021. 

Routine medical care — including blood pressure and weight checks, electrocardiograms, ear irrigations, blood draws and X-rays — stopped at CoreCivic, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit lays out a number of violent attacks before Braddy’s, including the beating of a detainee and stabbing of two correctional officers in February 2021 and two deaths by suicide that spring. 

“CoreCivic Leavenworth employees required other residents to clean up the feces in the shower following the resident’s death,” the lawsuit says. 

In May of that year, the lawsuit says, one resident stabbed another 17 times, and an officer “digitally anally sodomized” a detainee during a search. When others attempted to come forward, the lawsuit says, they were “threatened and intimidated.”

The lawsuit says in June of that year, between six and eight detainees were stabbed in one incident.

“Federal public defenders with clients inside CoreCivic Leavenworth report that stabbings like this are so routine recently that they are almost unnoteworthy,” the lawsuit says.

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.