Guards and inmates at a Connecticut prison are suing the state, which they say did not do enough to prevent their exposure to radon, the Associated Press reports. A federal judge last month ruled against the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by 13 inmates in the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. They allege officials exposed them to high levels of the radioactive gas, creating unconstitutional and inhumane conditions of confinement in the maximum-security prison. A separate lawsuit was filed in state court by 16 former guards and staff members, several of whom suffer from respiratory ailments. “They told the current guards, but they didn’t tell the retirees,” said Lori Welch-Rubin, who represents prisoners and guards. One ex-guard learned he had Stage 4 lung cancer and died four months later. “Had he known to get tested, they could have caught it earlier and saved his life,” she said.
Frank Crose, who served as warden between 1992 and 1996, became the lead plaintiff after being diagnosed with nodules on his lungs. Welch-Rubin alleges the state knew about the potential for problems with radon at Garner when it was opened in 1992 but did not begin testing until 2013, when it was requested by a teacher at the prison’s school. Tests found extremely high levels of radon inside the classrooms, which are on the second floor, she said. “We’re talking about levels in some places that are equivalent to smoking 2 ½ packs of cigarettes a day,” she said. “Not just being exposed to smoke, actually smoking 2 ½ packs a day.” Correction Department spokesman Andrius Banevicius said the state now routinely tests for radon in the prison and installed a radon mitigation system there.