California has a dark history of dangerous and overcrowded prisons, where “inmates’ health and safety [are] unconstitutionally compromised,” according to the Supreme Court.
If you or a family member have been incarcerated in California and endured abuse or neglect, you have a right to sue for compensation and contribute to reform California's corrupt prison system.
According to data from Mapping Police Violence, between 2013 and 2017, California has been the US state with the largest number of deaths in custody, followed by Texas and Florida. The state ranked 12th in the country for the number of inmate deaths per 1,000,000 inhabitants over the same period.
Every year, five white people die in custody per million of white people living in California. The rate is 13 for the African American population, which reveals a clear racial disproportionality.
When it comes to arrest-related deaths, California has been known to kill more people during arrest than most other states.
The state's rate of arrest-related deaths is significantly higher than the national average. Over a period of seven years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over 100 people have been killed annually during arrest in California.
California's prison system is a massive correctional structure, one of the largest in America.
Unfortunately, it is a haven for dishonest and sadistic guards, full of crumbling buildings and inmates who are rarely allowed to see a doctor, even for critical medical conditions. The state also boasts the largest number of prisoners in solitary confinement in the country.
As a person in custody in California, you may be killed during arrest, even while unarmed, if you are lucky and survive that stage, you may be sexually abused by jail staff, die from an untreated condition, or endure beatings and torture from both guards and fellow inmates.
This is the harsh reality prisoners and arrestees have to deal with in California today.
In 2016, the wardens of two California women's facilities resigned following allegations of inmate rape by guards and a series of inmate suicides. In September 2017 The Guardian ran a story on the “sadistic and terrorizing acts” committed by deputies at Santa Rita jail, which included strangling prisoners and encouraging them to throw feces at one another.
But California prisoners have rights, and they should be respected. Your civil rights are protected under the US Constitution. Though prisoners are deprived of certain rights, they are still entitled to adequate healthcare, to be free from excessive force and sexual abuse, and to live in humane facilities.
Seriously Injured In Custody in California? No Cost Legal Consult 866.836.4684
How can prisoners file a complaint in California?
A detainee cannot file a complaint directly in a court of law before using the prison grievance process.
The first step is to file a Form 602 and go through the three levels of review available. If the claim is found to be without merit, the plaintiff can file a lawsuit in court.
It is important to contact a California jail death and injury lawyer early on through the process, in order to ensure your initial filing will not hurt your chances of a successful lawsuit.
In the case of jail medical neglect claims where a doctor is to be one of the defendants, California prisoners must first notify the doctor about their intention to sue them. This is a requirement of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit under Section 1983
These are among the most complex cases to file for a prisoner or a deceased prisoner's family. When civil rights are violated during incarceration, you can file a case in federal court, which will then be subject to a screening order, where the court will decide if the case can go forward.
Damages in a civil rights case can go from thousands to millions of dollars depending on the type of violation and the attorney's expertise and resources.
Proving that an inmate's death was caused by neglect, for example, can be difficult. That is one of the reasons our California-based civil rights specialists have put together a team of investigators who know the ins and outs of the jail and prison system.
In a case of this type, you basically have to prove that prison staff and/or prison authorities were aware that civil rights were being violated. If you can prove that those rights were violated with a deliberate intent to harm inmates, you may have access to punitive damages, in addition to the standard compensatory damages.
Worst California Prisons and Jails
Mother Jones’ exposé on this maximum security California prison details the harsh conditions some of its residents are forced to endure:
“At Pelican Bay, the state’s first and most notorious Supermax, the 1,500 occupants of the Security Housing Unit (SHU) and Administrative Housing Unit spend 22.5 hours a day alone in windowless cells measuring about 7 x 11 feet. The remaining 90 minutes are spent, also alone, in bare concrete exercise pens. With no phone calls allowed, and only the rare noncontact visit, these prisoners, like those at ADX and Texas’ Allan Polunsky Unit, can only access the world outside their cells via their ‘feeding slots.’ And their only interactions with fellow prisoners consists of shouting through steel mesh—until the guards order them to shut up.”
Of 500 prisoners who lived in the Security Housing Unit over a decade, some spent an inhuman amount of time there. One single prisoner was is isolation for over 40 years, as reported by Mother Jones.
In some cases, inmates are condemned to the hole, not because they pose a threat to anyone, but simply because of the books they read or their way of thinking.
Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility:
Overcrowded and highly conflictive, this correctional facility is no stranger to beatings and guards enabling or participating in prisoner assault and rape.
Numerous investigative reports have signaled Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility as one of the most violent in the country, where civil rights violations occur on a regular basis.
Folsom State Prison:
Immortalized in a song by Johnny Cash, who famously sang, “Far from Folsom Prison that's where I long to stay,” the place has none of the beauty of the crooner’s blues melody. In fact, Cash recorded a live album at Folsom and was a passionate advocate for prison reform.
Once home to Charles Manson, this ancient California prison is famous for gang violence. Since its creation in 1880, it has gone through several periods of turmoil. In the 1980s, it was known for the violent clashes between the Aryan brotherhood and rival gangs.
In the early 20th century, it was the site of dozens of death penalty hangings. Rape, use of excessive force, and medical neglect have been regularly reported at Folsom.
California State Prison, Corcoran:
With a history of guards assaulting, shooting, and murdering inmates, this state prison was once home to staged fights (known as Gladiator Days) between Corcoran guards and prisoners, which always ended with physical abuse of the Corcoran prisoners.
San Quentin State Prison:
Open since 1852, San Quentin houses the largest male death row section in the country. A place where torture was viewed as an acceptable form of interrogation up until 1944, San Quentin has often been overcrowded by more than 50% of its capacity. Its educational programs have improved its reputation in later years.
High Desert State Prison:
A 2015 state investigation shed light on this Northern California prison’s entrenched culture of violence and racial discrimination. According to the Office of the Inspector General, abuse was so rampant at the facility, that guards should be made to wear body cameras and tracked by GPS to deter them from misconduct.
Use of excessive force and setting High Desert State Prison inmates up to be assaulted by peers were among the most severe charges against the prison’s guards.
Injured Victim of California’s Abusive Prison System? Call a Lawyer 866.836.4684
California Jail Death and Injury Lawsuits Lead to Multi-Million Dollar Settlements to Victims, Contribute to System Reform
California’s overcrowded prisons are often a no-man’s land where the most horrendous abuse can take place. Our attorneys have secured multi-million dollar settlements in a variety of cases, from jail medical neglect to wrongful death.
Oakland’s Martin Harrison was in Santa Rita jail for jaywalking and failure to appear in court for a DUI case. When Harrison displayed symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, he was beaten and tased by deputies. He died 48 hours later.
Jail health services provider Corizon Health agreed to an $8.3 million settlement. When he checked into the facility, Harrison had been examined by a vocational rather than a registered nurse, which is a requirement in California. Corizon has routinely reported that RNs had been in charge of initial screenings.
The family of a man who died of an embolism after being strapped to a restraint chair for 46 hours at San Luis Obispo County jail received a $5 million settlement in 2017. Although the County Coroner had ruled he died of natural causes, it was later proven that the seated position had caused a blood clot to form in Andrew Holland’s leg.
The coroner in the case had previously been disciplined for a DUI and had received several disciplinary warnings. Upon the announcement of the settlement, a spokesperson of the county commented this had been,
“A tragedy that should never have happened. It’s clear that counties and jails across the nation face systemic problems as the number of inmates with mental illness continues to climb. We are focused on fixing those problems here in San Luis Obispo County.”
The estate of Eric Loberg, who committed suicide in the Twin Towers jail, received a $1.7 million settlement.
Loberg had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and had been legally declared gravely disabled. Despite his refusal to take medication, he was placed in an insufficiently secure unit, where he jumped to his death. The Office of the Public Guardian’s requests that he be placed in mental health housing had been systematically ignored.
San Bernardino County and the County Sheriff’s Department recently agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve allegations by 32 West Valley Detention Center inmates who claimed to be victims of systematic torture by rogue deputies.
Santa Clara County recently agreed to a $3.6 million settlement in the case of an inmate who was allegedly beaten to death by three correctional officers. The victim, Michael Tyree, was mentally ill and had been arrested for misdemeanor theft and drug possession. According to prosecutors, he was found naked in his cell, covered in feces and vomit.
In January 2018, after a four-month long murder trial, the culprits were sentenced to 15 years to life.
Your Right to Sue Will Expire Soon. Act Now to Maximize Compensation and Bring Reform to California’s Prisons
In most cases, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California.
However the state’s corrupt system has been known to tamper with evidence and “take care of its own” whenever prison guards are being investigated.
To ensure you can receive the maximum compensation, contact one of our experienced attorneys as soon as possible. In the case of an inmate death, you may not be able to get your loved one back, but you can help ensure what happened to them never happens again. Successful inmate death lawsuits often lead to policy changes and prison reform.
Seriously Injured or Neglected Inmates are Entitled to Compensation – Call an Experienced and Aggressive Jail Injury or Death Lawyer Now to Preserve Your Rights 866.836.4684 or CONNECT ONLINE