It’s been more than a month since Franklin Jones learned that his younger brother was hospitalized in Portland. But his family still doesn’t know what happened to Renaldo Jones early one morning in his prison cell and why he now has a traumatic brain injury.

Investigators told Franklin Jones that they believe his 30-year-old brother was assaulted by his cellmate at Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Four weeks later, they have not filed criminal charges against that person or answered the family’s many questions. The stress and fear his parents and siblings feel as they monitor his condition is amplified by their confusion.

Renaldo Jones Photo courtesy of Franklin Jones

“All I want to know is more details,” Franklin Jones said. “I don’t want this vague answer of ‘He was assaulted,’ end of story. Why? What was going on with his cellmate? What have you learned? How was he found? What made the officer realize something was wrong at 2 in the morning?”

The Maine Department of Corrections would not confirm the alleged assault and denied a request for any internal reports. A spokeswoman said the department would not provide any details about pending investigations or individual medical information.

“Incidents of violence inside an MDOC facility are not tolerated and are thoroughly investigated,” Anna Black wrote in an email.

Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck referred questions about the alleged assault to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. A spokeswoman there responded to questions by saying she did not have any comment about the case.


Franklin Jones said his brother suffered a diffuse axonal injury, and a spokeswoman for Maine Medical Center said Friday his condition was listed as serious. The immediate family is scattered in other states but quickly rushed to Maine to see Renaldo Jones where he lay in a hospital bed, unresponsive. They eventually had to return to their homes, to wait for information and watch for signs of movement on Zoom calls. His mother, who lives in Florida, said she wished she could have stayed, but she could not afford to be away from work or stay in a hotel room indefinitely.

“At night, really, I just can’t sleep,” Benilde Jones said. “I’m just thinking.”

Family members said they moved around often when the three siblings were young because their father was in the military and then worked for NASA. Renaldo Jones was born while they lived in Senegal. Their parents divorced, and they eventually settled in Florida. The boys loved to skateboard, and Franklin Jones remembered those days of riding around Orlando as the best times of his life. Renaldo Jones loved animals and superheroes like Spiderman, and his mom said he talked about becoming a marine biologist or maybe a graphic designer.

Brothers Renaldo, left, and Franklin Jones as children. Photo courtesy of Franklin Jones

Franklin Jones said he grew apart from his brother as they got older. Renaldo Jones moved to Maine, where their father was living at the time.

“He was a good kid,” said Derrick Jones, his father, who now lives in Virginia. “He always stood up for people, even if it wasn’t his business. He was standing up for people that he thought were being wronged.”

Franklin Jones said his brother also struggled with substance use disorder that led to stints of incarceration. His record goes back more than a decade. At the time of the assault, Renaldo Jones had recently transferred to the Maine Correctional Center from the Penobscot County Jail. He had pleaded guilty to theft charges and had a year left on his sentence.


His family said he was feeling positive and making plans to stay sober and start fresh, maybe move to Massachusetts and get a license as a wastewater operator like his brother did. His sister, Julinha Moreno, said he liked to talk to her kids on video calls from the jail, and he wanted to be a better father and uncle.

“He just had all these hopes of doing his time and coming home and trying to do better,” said Moreno, who lives in North Carolina. “He just didn’t deserve this at all. Nobody does.”

His mother said she wished her son had been able to get the help he needed.

“There’s so much sadness with the young people, and we have to scream for help,” she said. “That is what I see happening, not only with Renaldo.”

Franklin Jones shared the few details the family has gathered from detectives. He said prison staff discovered his brother’s injuries around 2 a.m. on Jan. 17. Investigators told the family that Renaldo Jones had been attacked by the man who shared his cell. They later identified that man to the family but have not yet filed any criminal charges. Franklin Jones said he contacted a lawyer and sent a letter to the prison to request that they preserve all relevant evidence, and communication from the state has since stopped.

The two brothers hadn’t seen each other in person in years, but they still talked on the phone about video games and their plans for the future. In one of their last conversations before the injury, the two brothers talked about the new Spiderman movie. Franklin Jones had just seen it in a movie theater, and his brother asked him for all the details. Now, he thinks about how Renaldo Jones might never be able to see the movie himself.

“I oscillate between anger and despair,” Franklin Jones said.

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