Pepper spraying incident at West Virginia prison leads to federal lawsuit

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FILE: Generic jail/prison corridor (Photo credit: Getty)

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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

 The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) says they are representing an incarcerated man who suffered injuries from being brutally pepper-sprayed while confined in his cell and posing no threat.

The Organization says the incident, which occurred in September 2020, left Benjamin Marcum struggling to breathe and with severe burns and blisters on his legs, penis, and feet.

ACLU – WV is claiming Marcum demanded to speak to a correctional officer’s supervisor after the officer denied him the use of a phone to contact his elderly grandmother.

According to ACLU-WV, Marcum requested to speak to a “gold badge” –– a term used in prisons to refer to a correctional officer’s supervisor.

ACLU-WV also says the officer responded, “Here’s your gold badge,” and began spraying pepper spray under the door into Marcum’s poorly-ventilated cell and continued to deploy the spray, which measures around 2,000,000 on the Scoville Heat Unit Index, despite Marcum’s pleas to stop.

Marcum initially filed the lawsuit on his own behalf in February, naming correctional officer Charles Moles as a Defendant.

“Administrators and officers are responsible for the basic safety and wellbeing of the people in state custody,” said Loree Stark, ACLU-WV legal director. “Officials and officers do not have a pass to violate a person’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force simply because that right belongs to a person who is incarcerated.”

Marcum is seeking a full review of use-of-force policies.

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