Last September, a 28-year-old autistic man experienced an epileptic seizure at Desoto Correctional Institution, about 50 miles north of Fort Myers. Instead of receiving prompt medical care, he alleges he was beaten by corrections officers, then placed in isolation for the balance of his two-year sentence.
Dean Higgins is now suing the Florida Department of Corrections and the officers involved in the attack alleging cruel and unusual punishment, violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, use of excessive force and battery. It is the latest in a flurry of suits involving the prison system and inmates with disabilities, despite a lawsuit settlement two years back that purported to improve the treatment of prisoners with mental and physical frailties.
The lawsuit says after the confrontation he was held in a six-by-eight-foot room with concrete walls, where “raw sewage would seep into Higgins’ cell, at times a number of inches deep.” Higgins claims that cell conditions made sleeping difficult and that he was reprimanded for using his arm to shield his eyes from overhead lights that were turned off only between 1 and 5 a.m.