One man encouraging others to make their voices heard about alleged abuse at SCI
GEORGETOWN, Del. – Several individuals are speaking out about mistreatment they say they’ve experienced at the hands of correctional officers at Sussex Correctional Institution.
How it unfolded
Chris Morales was pulled over in Delaware when he found out he had a warrant out for him in Florida. He then called his attorney to let them know what is happening because he had a bad feeling. “I’m apprehended, and I’m going into some sort of facility in Delaware, and that I believe something might happen to me,” former SCI Inmate, Morales feared.
The ACLU of Delaware filed the case on December 17th of last year but more are sharing their stories since then. “I know I can do something about it, cause it wasn’t just only me, it was others while I was back there, I’m seeing them bruised up, bleeding,” says Morales.
Chris Morales a former inmate at the Sussex Correctional Institution is making his voice heard. So that others behind bars can know their rights. He and 38 plaintiffs are now in a lawsuit Davis Et Al versus Neal Et Al. “This is a collection of 39 plaintiffs who are alleging cruel and unusual punishment by the Department of Corrections officials at Sussex Correctional Institute and so these are abuses of their power and authority, really violent attacks in laymen’s terms its really assault and battery,” says the ACLU Legal Director, Dwayne Bensing.
A situation that felt all too familiar to Chris. “It’s abuse and you know its abuse when you already have your hands handcuffed behind your back, you’re on the floor and you feel that canister, up closely in your face, to where they are trying to take the little nozzle, and literally put it there. And you’re gasping for air, they’re on top of you, and all you can do is inhale all of that, to this day I have nasal problems, because everything got internally infused and burnt and I’m asthmatic at that and once they maced me they put a covid mask over me,” says Morales.
Concerns in the case
Though the lawsuit has been filed, the ACLU fears for those currently in prison. “We have an ongoing concern that there could be retaliation against the plaintiffs who’ve come forward and that’s an additional allegation in our complaint, it’s really important that people who are incarcerated have the opportunity to exercise their rights,” says Bensing. “Cause when you write grievances in there, in Sussex that’s supposed to help us out, right? But you’re giving it to a correctional officer,” says Morales.
But what does justice look like?
To Chris, it means: “I would like to see charges, against these correctional officers because we can get paid out, but what is that going to do if they still got a job? If theres no charges being brought up against them, like what good is that, they still get to keep a job and still do the same thing?…there needs to be a better system in there that can help the inmates reach out to the higher authority, cut out the middle man when it comes to writing these grievances.” says Morales.
Legacy: helping others
With the cuffs no longer holding him back he’s using his experience to educate others. I’m trying to become somebody, make a name of myself, there’s so much testosterone in jail, but I made it,” says Morales.
Chris says there’s power in speaking out. If there’s no pressure, there’s no change. “But being in that situation, I just seen the abuse and I said to myself I got to do something about it, so I started to educate everybody that was coming back there, you guys can do something about it,” says Morales.
47 ABC did reach out to the DOC, and they say because litigation is pending, they cannot comment. However, the ACLU is set to hear back from the state party defendants by the middle of this month. The ACLU says their involvement, in this case, is crucial to ensure change to the policies and practices for those who are in the state’s custody.