Jail Death and Injury Site FAQs

What Are The Rights of Prison Inmates Under US Laws?

People in custody in the US have rights, including:

  • The right to live in humane facilities
  • The right not to be sexually abused or segregated by race
  • The right to enjoy accessible facilities if disabled
  • The right to receive adequate medical care, including mental health care
  • The right to receive prescribed medication in a timely manner
  • The right not to be subjected to excessive force or endangered without justification
  • To receive nourishing food and water

What Is Prison Abuse?

Some of the most common types of prison abuse are:

  • Assault by fellow inmates
  • Sexual abuse by either other inmates or prison staff
  • Use of excessive force by guards
  • Physical or psychological torture
  • Deliberate refusal of medical attention and/or medication

What types of compensation can inmate abuse and neglect victims receive?

The potential recovery of a jail death or injury lawsuit varies greatly from one case to the other. Damages in these type of cases are typically compensatory. This means they are awarded to cover expenses, for example, to pay for medical treatment needed as a result of the abuse or neglect. They are also awarded as a relief for emotional pain and suffering. Punitive damages, meant to punish the culprits can also be awarded in some cases, usually involving serious injuries.

When formulating a lawsuit with the help of an experienced jail death and injury law attorney, there are many things to consider to decide on how much to ask for in the shape of financial compensation. Estimating the cost of restoring the victim´s health (if alive), taking into account for how long the abuse or neglect occurred, and establishing whether the pain and suffering were inflicted with intent, all of these considerations can help find a number that judges and defendants alike will take seriously. Our attorneys have secured compensation ranging from thousands to millions, depending on the type of case. Typically, wrongful death takes the largest compensation, but settlements in cases of systematic abuse can also reach substantial figures.

How Can I Report Prison Abuse?

Typically, you can file a complaint with either the detention center itself or the DOJ, the sooner the better. It can often be essential to the chances of success of a future lawsuit to have filed a complaint as early as possible. In some cases, fear of retaliation can be argued as a reason not to have file a complaint in a timely manner. Whether you file a complaint or not, it is very important to consult with an attorney in order to establish the best course of action, this should also be done as soon as possible.

What Are a Prison Inmate’s Rights to Medical Care?

Inmates are not entitled to receive the best medical care available for their health problems, but they have the right to receive adequate care. Often, guards dismiss cries for help as simulation or exaggeration, and inmates fail to receive critical care. But people in custody have a right to be examined by a medical professional, to receive any medication they require, and to have all their basic medical needs met. Failure to receive adequate medical care can be grounds for filing a medical neglect case.

Do Guards Have The Right to Use Force Against Prisoners?

Prison guards, immigration officers, juvenile detention officers, and cops are charged with protecting the physical integrity of inmates. There is commonly animosity between guards and inmates, but prison staff have no right to beat up, taser, or otherwise assault prisoners. Physical abuse by staff at jails and prisons may be endured and accepted by most, but it is a violation of your civil rights, and it can be grounds for a lawsuit.

What Laws Protect Prison Inmates from Abuse by Guards?

Under Federal Statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983, victims of in-custody abuse and their families can file a civil rights lawsuit to obtain compensation. Under the Eight Amendment, prisoners also have a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

Who Is in Charge of Investigating Prison Abuse Claims?

As a rule, when a lawsuit is filed, the Department of Justice is in charge of investigating wrongful death and prison abuse claims. On the other hand, when a report is filed internally, a correctional investigation ensues. In his book, Fundamentals of Jail & Prison Administrative/Internal Investigations, retired warden D. P. Lyons explains that small detention centers in rural areas seldom even initiate investigations when an inmate reports abuse, but this puts them at a great risk in the event of litigation. One of the goals of correctional investigations is to establish “whether the incident would have occurred if policy was followed.”

What Happens When an Internal Investigation Concludes There Was No Abuse?

Statistics show correctional investigations seldom conclude there has been a violation, and only an insignificant percentage of the staff members found guilty of abuse and negligence ever face criminal charges. If the victim has filed a claim internally, that can be helpful for preparing a complaint filing, but it is a waste of time and energy to argue with the prison. If they deny the claims, filing a lawsuit with the assistance of an experienced attorney is the best course of action.

What Are The Chances of Success of a Prison Abuse Lawsuit?

In 2016, The New Yorker run a piece entitled Why It’s Nearly Impossible for Prisoners to Sue Prisons. The Clinton-era Prison Litigation Reform Act (P.L.R.A.) has limited the scope of what wronged prisoners can achieve through a lawsuit, for example, not granting attorney fees in the case of a favorable resolution. A New Republic exposé referred to the legislation in the following terms, “the PLRA laid waste to the ability of incarcerated people to bring prison officials to court for violations of their constitutional rights, whether it be racial discrimination, lack of medical care, or brutality by prison guards. The act was championed as a solution to the thousands of supposed ‘frivolous lawsuits’ by prisoners, with barely any discussion by Congress about its far-reaching effects.”

Indeed, the PLRA has made it extremely difficult for victims to file jail death or injury lawsuits. Our civil rights specialists and prison abuse investigators have a track record of successful cases involving some of America’s deadliest detention centers.

I Received a Settlement Offer for My Prison Abuse Complaint, Should I Accept It?

Standard settlement terms usually include a clause that prevents you from taking any legal action in the future. If you take a financial offer without consulting with an attorney, you could forfeit your right to hold the culprits accountable and secure compensation for the abuse you or your loved one were forced to endure.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is defined in different terms across state lines. An in-custody wrongful death lawsuit generally requires the following elements:

  • A prison inmate died.
  • The circumstances of their death were preventable, they might include neglect, physical abuse, inadequate conditions. Basically, there must be negligence, an intent to harm the victim, or defective equipment/facilities.
  • The deceased inmate’s family represents a financial injury to their family.
  • A family member or representative wishes to come forward and file a claim.

Who Can File Wrongful Death Cases Involving Detention Centers?

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed on behalf of all dependents of the victim, including spouse and children. Immediate family members, such as parents, children, and spouse can file wrongful death claim. There is a statute of limitations to file this type of claims. In most states, you have only between one and three years to file a claim.

Can My Prison Death Lawsuit Help Prevent Further Abuse and Reform The System?

This has happened in numerous precedent-setting cases, including several handled by Jail Death and Injury Law attorneys. The settlement that resolved the case of R & B singer Sean Levert, who died at Cuyahoga County jail, prompted the jail to focus more on providing adequate mental health care to inmates. Policy changes relating to the treatment of mentally ill detainees were also a result of a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Marshall, who was killed by rogue deputies in Denver.

Many prison death lawsuits end with guards getting fired or being charged with crimes. This can also help prevent future abuse, acting as a deterrent for potentially abusive prison staff. If you believe in the need for reform, if you or a loved one have personally endured the evils of US jails and prisons, our attorneys can help you file an iron-clad lawsuit to ensure the culprits are held accountable and the system will make it increasingly harder for prison staff and authorities to break the rules.

Does a death while in custody constitute a civil rights violation?

Depending on the circumstances, a death in custody may well violate the late person’s civil rights. Examples of possible civil rights violations in these situations include:

  • Death due to excessive force
  • Failure to provide proper healthcare to sick or injured inmates
  • Failure to keep suicide watch
  • Failure to segregate inmates from violent offenders

What is the leading cause of jail death?

Suicide is the leading cause of inmate death in U.S. jails. That is not the case with U.S. prisons, where the majority of inmate deaths relate to diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. One reason for the discrepancy is that prisons have better intake protocols than local jails, and state and federal facilities are more likely to have been the target of litigation for prisoner’s rights.

That is often not the case with smaller facilities, and with limited resources advocates focus on where they can make the most difference. In fact, the smaller the jail, the more likely it is to have a high suicide rate.

What is the second leading cause of jail death?

The second leading cause of jail death involves substance abuse, whether drugs or alcohol. These deaths are often directly linked to failures in the intake process.

What are examples of cruel and unusual punishment while in custody?

Any excessive use of force is considered cruel and unusual punishment. That includes any contact by a corrections officer or guard meant to cause harm, rather than keeping order.

Sexual assault and rape is cruel and unusual punishment, as is sexual harassment.

Conditions in the facility must be humane. Any unsafe conditions or those depriving inmates of basic needs such as food, sanitation, exercise, clothing and hygiene may constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

What constitutes medical neglect for inmates?

A facility must provide inmates with medical care – however, inmates are not necessarily protected from medical malpractice. Inmates require care for what are deemed “serious medical needs.” Serious needs range from the immediately life-threatening to chronic conditions requiring treatment such as HIV, diabetes or high blood pressure. Mental health problems may also constitute a serious medical need.

Medical neglect may include failure to provide such care, failure to monitor care, intentionally delaying treatment or non-medical jail personnel interfering with treatment protocols.

What are the most common types of use of excessive force against inmates?

Although the use of excessive force runs the gamut, in prisons many inmates die of asphyxiation because of the use of chokeholds and suffocation occurring in restraint-related incidents. Inmates who survive a chokehold or other type of restraint that stops breathing may end up with permanent brain damage.

Can guards use Tasers to punish inmates?

Tasers and similar electronic devices are designed to keep order in detention facilities, but are not supposed to be used against individual inmates for punishment. This prohibition is widely flouted, and tasers and similar devices have caused serious injury and even death to some inmates.

What is deliberate indifference when it comes to inmates’ rights?

Deliberate indifference occurs when prison officials are aware that inmates were at risk of harm, but officials failed to respond or did not respond adequately. Failure to respond to an inmate’s complaints may constitute deliberate indifference.

How can a jail death or injury attorney help?

Jail death and injury law is a complex field. Those who have lost a loved one in a jail death or whose family member suffered serious injury while in custody need the services of lawyers dedicated to this line of work, not a general practice attorney.

Our experienced attorneys work alongside our top investigators to find out what happened in any given situation and file suit if the facts show an inmate was killed, harmed or had their civil rights violated by law enforcement officers or prison personnel. We fight hard for our clients and have a strong track record.