wsls logo

Court documents reveal details of abuse, medical neglect under former Rockbridge County jail superintendent’s watch

Inmates hazed, physically abused, forced to drink bleach

Court documents reveal history of corruption at Rockbridge County Regional Jail
Court documents reveal history of corruption at Rockbridge County Regional Jail

LEXINGTON, Va. – John Higgins, the former superintendent of the Rockbridge County Regional Jail, and a former member of the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, was convicted on Sunday of multiple charges related to federal civil rights violations and corruption.

He was found guilty of failing to protect inmates from physical abuse and preventing an inmate from getting medical care.

Court documents revealed that in October 2016, an inmate told a family member that he had witnessed other inmates physically abusing an inmate, forcing the inmate to “drink urine, and eat food mixed with feces…” also “...slapping him in the face and shoving him around.”

Prosecutors said Higgins took no action to separate that inmate from his abusers.

Then in February 2017, investigators listened to a prison phone call that claimed that abusers knocked out some, or all, of that inmate’s teeth.

He and another inmate were hit with hard objects and forced by other inmates to drink bleach.

On one occasion, investigators said Higgins refused to let the inmate who was earlier forced to drink urine go to the hospital for three days, despite a serious injury to his right hand and jail staff noticing prominent bruises all over his face and body. Documents state that he “exhibited widespread and readily apparent physical injuries.”

In a statement announcing the conviction, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar writes:

“For years, Higgins acted as though he was above the law and ran the jail accordingly—failing to protect and assist certain inmates in need of medical care, but providing special treatment to another inmate that could enrich him,” said Bubar. “I am proud of the hard work put in by our partners at the FBI and VSP and our prosecution team that brought about this just result.”

About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!