Inmate suit against Clallam Bay corrections officers to go to trial

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

A federal judge has ordered a trial in a lawsuit filed by a former Clallam Bay Corrections Center inmate alleging two corrections officers gave him a shaving razor after he threatened to kill himself.

Kyle L. Payment, 28, said in the lawsuit filed in June 2013 that he used the razor, given to him after he was escorted to a shower, and cut himself along his arm, resulting in the need for eight stitches.

Payment, who is representing himself in the case, said his rights were violated because the corrections officers deliberately failed to protect him from himself.

Payment said Officers Randy Simonsen and Steven Weed gave him the razor and a shower kit, which also included a towel and soap, after he had pressed the emergency call button in his cell because he was having suicidal thoughts Feb. 20, 2013.

He said he asked whether he was going to get a razor, to which Weed replied, “Absolutely.”

Payment also claimed he heard Weed say to Simonsen, “What, you think I want to put up with him for the next 30 years?”

Payment says in the suit that Weed handed him the razor, saying, “Here, you are going to need this — that is, if you are really serious,” and walked away.

In his ruling filed July 21, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed several other defendants in the lawsuit, including the superintendent of the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, but said the claims against Simonsen and Weed will stand.

Leighton agreed with U.S. District Judge J. Richard Creatura's recommendation that material issues of fact remain regarding whether Simonsen and Weed inferred Payment was a danger to himself and ignored the risk in allowing Payment to have the razor.

In a joint status report, Payment and the state Attorney General's Office agreed that the case would be ready for trial Dec. 1. No date has been set, according to court records.

Payment now is in the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

He has been there since August 2013 after he was transferred from Clallam Bay, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Norah West said Thursday.

In a motion to dismiss the case, Assistant State Attorney General Eric Miller argued that “this was no suicide attempt.”

Miller argued that Payment took advantage of a “chaotic situation” during the removal of an unruly inmate from his cell to call for help and said Payment was upset he had lost his recreation time.

Payment was being kept in the Intensive Management Unit — in which inmates that pose threats to themselves, others or staff are kept separate from the corrections center's general population — because of a history of assaults against staff, Miller wrote.

For security reasons, inmates in the Intensive Management Unit were not taken to the showers or to recreation time while corrections officers dealt with the other inmate, Miller wrote.

Miller said it was a miscommunication among staff members that allowed Payment to be issued a razor after he had said he was suicidal.

Prison policy prevents inmates considered violent or suicidal from having razors or other items that could be used to hurt themselves or others, Miller wrote, though Payment was not specifically restricted from having a shaving razor at the time of the incident.

Miller wrote that medical personnel responded “immediately” to Payment after he made what Miller called “superficial” cuts on his arm.

Miller wrote that Payment began his current sentence in 2004 for assault and “has remained incarcerated because of additional convictions for multiple assaults against staff.”

“[Payment] has spent the majority of his sentence in Intensive Management Units because of his assaultive behavior,” Miller wrote.

In the motion to dismiss, Miller also listed multiple instances of Payment calling officers to his cell for false emergencies and claiming to be suicidal when he was upset with staff or wanted food or other items.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 31. 2014 8:13PM
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