It began with a relatively minor allegation. The state of Illinois accused a man, Larry Earvin, who suffered from mental illness and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, of stealing less than $300 worth of watches from a hospital gift shop. The state decided 6 years imprisonment was appropriate for his crime.
While in prison at the Western Illinois Correctional Center (WICC), Earvin was abused by corrections officers, who had a reputation for “disrespecting” racial minorities and disabled people.
Just months before his release, on May 17, 2018, four corrections officers brutally beat Mr. Earvin, 65, in a known “blind spot” area within the prison that was not covered by cameras.
Earvin was handcuffed at the time of the beating. He suffered from broken ribs, a punctured colon, and other serious injuries at the hands of his prison guards. He died on June 26, 2018, as a result of his injuries.
“I don’t know how they could treat a human like that, let alone a 65-year-old who couldn’t defend [himself],” Earvin’s son, Larry Pippion, told a local CBS affiliate. “Handcuffed? Who does that? You don’t even treat animals like that.”
Two of the corrections officers, Todd Sheffler and Alex Banta, face trial for their role in Mr. Earvin’s death. A third, Willie Hedden, has pleaded guilty for his role in the murder.
What can be done in these situations?
Those who find themselves or their loved ones facing similar treatment may feel overwhelmed. Taking on the government is no easy task, but it is important that we hold those who fail to uphold the rules of country accountable for their actions.
In the case of Mr. Earvin, the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Erickson & Oppenheimer LTD has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Earvin’s family. The lawsuit seeks to obtain financial compensation for the Earvin family and hold those who broke the law accountable for their wrongdoing. The firm also hopes to raise awareness of the mistreatment and beatings that occur at WICC and other correctional facilities throughout the state.
“Mr. Earvin was brutally and viciously beaten to death by four cruel and savage employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections,” said attorney Michael Oppenheimer. “This was a sustained, extensive, ruthless murder.”
The family hopes the lawsuit will bring the case into the light, push the state to take responsibility for Earvin’s death and, ultimately, make the community a safer place. “[We] just want some type of justice you know so that this doesn’t keep happening,” said Pippion.