- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled against a Tecumseh State Correctional Institution inmate who sued the state prisons director and prison staff, saying they failed to protect him during a riot last year.

Robert Clayborne Jr., 40, was in protective custody when inmates gained control of the prison for several hours after an attack on prison staff on May 10, 2015. The riot caused extensive damage and a prison guard fired a shot from the tower in an attempt to regain control, the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/2ezCDtm ) reported. Two inmates were found dead after order was restored.

Clayborne’s lawsuit said understaffing led to the riot and that staff showed a deliberate indifference to his right to safety and medical care. He said the incident almost cost him his life.

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf dismissed the lawsuit, saying staff had to retreat to an office in the lobby for their safety and that the prison wasn’t understaffed at the time of the disturbance. Clayborne said the retreating of staff subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment. He added that no guards or caseworkers were in his unit to help people for seven hours during the fires and violence.

During the dismissal, the judge said staff placed the doors on “group access” before retreating. This meant inmates had the option to either stay in their cells or push a button to open them. Kopf’s order said staff instructed inmates to evacuate to a mini-yard, and special teams were called in to regain control of the situation. The judge said case law protected government officials from liability for civil damages, as long as their conduct doesn’t violate statutory or constitutional rights.

Clayborne is serving a 25- to 35-year prison sentence for assaulting a woman in Lincoln.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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