O’FALLON — A prisoners rights group filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that a Missouri jail has been mistreating its inmates, saying deputies have taunted and tortured inmates and that the jail provided so little food that one detainee ate toothpaste and toilet paper to ward off hunger.
The lawsuit by the St. Louis-based civil rights law firm ArchCity Defenders was filed on behalf of Robert Hopple, Stefani Rudigier and Shawn Mesey, who recently were pretrial detainees at the Francois County Jail. The lawsuit names the eastern Missouri county, Sheriff Dan Bullock and the former jail administrator, along with the company providing medical care at the jail and a nurse. It seeks unspecified damages.
The lawsuit contends that the actions at the jail “violate basic standards of human decency as well as the United States Constitution.”
Bullock and St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher didn’t immediately reply to phone messages or emails seeking comment. The county is about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.
The lawsuit cites concerns such as black mold on the walls, frequently overflowing toilets and other inhumane conditions. Hopple, 49, of Bonne Terre, recounts an instance in which his cell was so cold that sewage that had overflowed onto the floor froze.
The lawsuit alleges that food rations were tiny and lacking in nutrients. Rudigier says she lost more than 100 pounds during her nearly two years of incarceration. The lawsuit says deputies would sometimes taunt the hungry inmates by bringing out extra meal packs and offering them up to anyone who could answer a trivia question. If no one answered correctly, the deputies would allegedly throw out the food.
“Mr. Hopple resorted to eating toothpaste and toilet paper to curb his hunger,” the lawsuit states.Hopple alleges that deputies organized “Friday Night Fights,” in which they arranged fights between the inmates.
The lawsuit also questions the medical care at the jail. Among other complaints, Rudigier, 27, of Maplewood, says she was denied mental illness medication for 21 of the nearly 24 months she was incarcerated.
The lawsuit accuses the jail of abusing inmates placed in a restraint chair. It says some restrained inmates were sprayed in the mouth with Mace or punched in the head.
Concerns have been raised before about the jail’s use of a restraint chair. An inmate, William Ames III, died after being strapped to the chair in November 2018.
was placed in the chair for more than 24 hours and missed several doses of anti-seizure medication. It also alleged that jail workers were told that Ames had swallowed a bag containing a combination of methamphetamine, cocaine and bath salts, but failed to act.