Late DOC inmate’s family files lawsuit claiming abuse

DOVER — The family of an inmate who died after being found hanging two years ago has filed a lawsuit citing the alleged disregard of mental health, abuse and safety concerns during a two-year period.

Darius Sarro was supposedly subjected to constant “terror and torture” before dying while being held at Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover in 2017, according to the 45-page Superior Court action filed action filed on Tuesday. He was also incarcerated at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna during the stretch.

Connections Community Support Programs Inc. and Delaware Department of Correction officials were named as defendants.

Darius Sarro

The plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Hampton described the case as “tragic … but probably will not be the last if DOC and CCSP continue like they have been.”

Also, the attorney said, “We get contacted by phone, mail, or email upwards of 30 times a week with complaints by inmates or their families about prison conditions. Almost all involve the failure to get healthcare, or bullying by correctional officers.

“Conditions for inmates seem to be as bad as they have ever been, except in the year after the (inmate) revolt (that included the death of a correctional officer at JTVCC).”

Delaware Department of Correction spokesman Paul Shavack said, “We are in the process of reviewing the details of the filing, but due to pending litigation we will not discuss the specifics of the case.”

Attempts to reach CCSP for comment were unsuccessful.

According to the lawsuit, Sarro hung himself in a bathroom sometime overnight on Oct. 10, 2017. DOC records and reports showed that he “was unaccounted for during the 30 to 45 minutes before he was discovered.”

The complaint indicated that Sarro was classified as a Seriously Mentally Ill inmate by CCSP “who required frequent and daily mentoring, monitoring, and medication.

“He had long hair and was slight in stature, standing (5-foot-2, weighing around 120 pounds.) His appearance was youthful, childlike even, and it made him a target of larger inmates who sexually abused him, raped him, bullied him, stole his property, extorted money from him and threatened him during the two years preceding his death.”

Sarro, 23, was pronounced dead on Oct. 14, 2017 after transport to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover. He was serving a one-year sentence for a violation of probation on a fourth-degree rape charge.

The lawsuit claimed that “CCSP employees failed to provide Darius with the mental health treatment necessary for a suicidal rape victim. Instead, employees ignored his plight and failed to take steps to prevent Darius from being victimized by these inmates.
“They also failed to monitor him even when they knew he was suicidal, out of sight, and wearing a belt.”

According to the action, Sarro had supposedly been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (noted in an initial psychiatric evaluation in December 2014 following incarceration), depression and attention deficit disorder and had been admitted to Dover Behavioral Health and Rockford Center five times, with a most recent suicide attempt in 2012.

Also, the action noted multiple mental health sick call requests, supposed bullying and sexual assaults that were allegedly mishandled or ignored.

DOC employees allegedly failed to follow Prison Rape Elimination Act guidelines and failed to interview Sarro and failed to “take any actions against his attackers other than to move them to another tier.

“When Darius was being victimized at JTVCC or MCCC his plight was common knowledge at all levels of authority, including the warden.”

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