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The Commercial Appeal

May 31, 2000

Author: Michael Erskine The Commercial Appeal

The mother of a former juvenile inmate at the privately run Shelby Training Center has filed a lawsuit alleging that staff beat her son and drove him to a suicide attempt that has left him permanently disabled.

The suit, filed in federal court late Friday against the Nashville-based private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America, also alleges that staff ignored Steven Moore’s threats to kill himself despite a previous attempt to hang himself at the center with socks.

Moore was placed in the care of the center in November 1998 after an assault conviction in Shelby County Juvenile Court.  He remained at the center until his suicide attempt last Aug. 1 at the age of 15.

That day, a staff member discovered Moore hanging by his bed sheets from an air-conditioning vent. Moore suffered a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation as a result of the suicide attempt and needs 24-hour care and attention, according to the lawsuit.

Moore, now 16, was released by the CCA detention center following his suicide attempt and lives with his mother in Memphis. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jeffrey Rosenblum, seeks damages of more than $20 million.

The lawsuit alleges that prison staff abused Moore physically and emotionally throughout his stay. Moore told his mother, Debra Reed, he tried to kill himself to stop the abuse by the center’s employees.

The lawsuit says that CCA records show Moore had bruises and scratches on his body that coincided with each of his complaints of abuse by CCA employees.

The suit also alleges that the employee who discovered the teenager did nothing to help him until a second employee came to assist several minutes later.

The lawsuit alleges that Moore told staff that he was contemplating suicide as early as April 1999 and that, in either late April or early May, he tried to hang himself with socks he had tied together.

The 200-bed Shelby Training Center, at 3420 Old Getwell Road, opened in May 1986.

The “secure”-rated facility houses inmates from Juvenile Court, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and the states of Delaware and Idaho, according to CCA’s Web site.

A CCA spokesman could not be reached late Tuesday.

Moore was taking Depakote, prescribed for his bipolar disorder, at the outset of his stay at the center. He also began taking Zoloft for depression in May 1999.

On Aug. 1, 1999, after spending a long time in a lockdown unit, Moore refused to take his medication and told the nurse that he was going to kill himself at 7:10 p.m.

After nurse Tina Moss reported the threat to the shift supervisor, the supervisor told Moss “that she was going on her break and that Steven could go ahead and hang himself as far as she was concerned,” according to the lawsuit.

A supervisor discovered Moore hanging from the vent about 7:40 p.m.

The suit alleges that, after the employee found Moore, she did not try to assist by lifting him up to ease the pressure but “radioed for the shift supervisor to come to the unit, and did not even make it an emergency request.  Had the CCA employee immediately tried to relieve the pressure around Steven’s neck, he would not have sustained the anoxic brain injury that he ultimately sustained.”

Moore was finally cut down by the shift supervisor and another employee and was taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, where he spent several months. He was then treated at HealthSouth, a rehabilitation hospital.

To reach reporter Michael Erskine, call 529-5857 or E-mail

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Record Number:  0005310087