SALEM – The union for Oregon correctional officers has hired a lawyer to sue inmates who attack their guards, and the first action alleges that an inmate with HIV bit the inside of his cheek until it bled so that he could spit infected blood.
The president of the officers union said more lawsuits are ahead as they try to stop inmates from throwing urine and feces on officers, spitting on them and hitting them with objects or fists.
“We didn’t get hired by the department to be punching bags,” said Mike Van Patten, president of the Association of Oregon Correctional Employees.
He told the Salem Statesman Journal the lawsuits are also a way for officers to get an emotional resolution.
“We’re doing this partly to get the staff members some closure,” he said. “Post-traumatic stress disorder rates are quite high in this industry.”
The union has hired lawyer Sean Riddell, once a top investigator for former Oregon Attorney General John Kroger.
Officer Jeffrey Parnell’s suit alleges that 22-year-old inmate Nickolas John Hainz knew he was infected when he spat at the officer.
The lawsuit said Parnell was tested and “waited several months in fear he was infected until medical tests confirmed he was not.”
The suit seeks $700,000.
It is a felony in Oregon for an inmate to throw bodily fluids on an officer, adding as much as five years to a sentence.