FLORENCE, Colo. — According to a new lawsuit, a 2019 mock exercise inside an administrative building at the U.S. Penitentiary Florence left employees in emotional distress with lasting effects.
The Supermax Prison in Florence houses some of America’s most notorious felons, which is why according to the lawsuit, employees engage in mock training exercises to keep them safe.
“The objective is to make them realistic to test the knowledge the staff members have on policies,” said Ed Aro, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case.
The exercise in question took on June 20, 2019, went too far when a Special Operations Response Team, also known as “SORT,” conducted a hostage training exercise.
Per Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, a group of administrative employees, some of whom were on restricted duty due to medical conditions, took cover in a business office and waited for an all-clear.
But during the exercise, the lawsuit claims members of the SORT team became hostile and violent and pushed employees into an emotional distress state.
“The officers knew one of the women in the room was in her third trimester of her pregnancy, and the other was recovering from a foot injury and in crutches at the time,” said Aro.
Employees say the sort team used pepper spray and training ammunition against them and ignored their “out of role” calls in an attempt to stop the drill.
“These folks were traumatized. They were going about their business doing what they were supposed to do and attacked by coworkers,” stated Aro.
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General conducted an investigation and concluded that “inappropriate and dangerous events transpired” in the attack.
“The people who assaulted our clients are thugs and stepped over the line and attack coworkers,” he said.
The lawsuit is seeking monetary and punitive damages. Even though the incident took place two years ago, Aro says impacted employees have yet to receive an explanation as to why the exercise unfolded the way it did.
“As far as we know, they (defendants) are all still working for the bureau of prisons and haven’t sufferer any serious repercussions,” said Aro.