Prison guards and other officials who work at prisons, as well as police officers who take individuals into custody, are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of all inmates who are incarcerated at a facility. Specifically, these individuals are responsible for making sure that the inmates’ basic needs are met and that they are well taken care of during their incarceration.

In some instances, however, prison guards and other prison officials neglect their responsibilities. When this takes place, prisoners can suffer from abuse, neglect, or harassment while they are incarcerated. When an inmate suffers injuries or emotional distress due to the negligence of a prison official, he or she may file a claim or lawsuit against the government.

There is no disputing that police officers, prison officials, and prison guards wield a significant amount of power and authority over inmates. Therefore, incarcerated individuals who are suffering from neglect or abuse may be hesitant to reach out or take action to improve their situation. However, when an individual is taken into custody, his or her constitutional rights are not checked at the door of the prison. Instead, many of these legal rights remain in full force and effect at all times.

If you or someone you care about has suffered an injury or death as a result of neglect or abuse that occurred in the prison setting, then you may be eligible to file a claim for monetary compensation and damages. The experienced Philadelphia prisoners rights attorney at The Zeiger Firm is ready and willing to assist you in pursuing your federal claim or lawsuit against the government.

Please feel free to call us today for more information about how we can assist you with filing your claim for inmate abuse at a prison facility. Our experienced federal civil rights attorneys handle cases that arise in the following counties that comprise the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the federal court system: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.

What Are Some Legal Rights Held by Inmates Who Are Incarcerated in Prisons?

An individual is formally taken into custody when his or her freedom to move about is taken away. For example, if the prisoner is placed into an interrogation room and he or she does not feel free to leave the facility, the law may consider the prisoner in custody from that point on.

However, just because an individual is taken into custody by the police does not mean that his or her constitutional rights go away. In fact, the prisoner has rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Moreover, if the prisoner is ultimately convicted of a criminal offense and has to serve time, he or she still has rights while incarcerated. For example, the inmate has the right not to be neglected or abused, as well as the right to live in a reasonably safe and sanitary environment.

What Is Prison Neglect and Abuse?

In a prison, there are two types of individuals who possibly may commit acts of neglect or abuse. In some instances, government actors, such as prison officials and prison guards, are the individuals abusing or neglecting inmates. In other situations, it is the inmates themselves who are creating violent situations that may cause others to suffer potential harm. Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable measures to ensure that violence does not occur between inmates. Additionally, prisons are required to have procedures and protocols in place, so that guards and other prison officials know how to respond when violence erupts between inmates.

In cases where prison officials do not take the necessary steps to safeguard against violence, or when they otherwise behave in an abusive or neglectful way, then the prison may be liable for negligence.

If you or someone that you care about has been a victim of neglect or abuse in a prison, then our experienced prison inmate abuse lawyers may take legal action on your behalf.

How Do Prison Officials Behave in an Abusive Manner?

There are several ways that prison officials may behave in an abusive manner. While some abusive actions and behaviors directed toward inmates may be malicious and intentional, at other times, prison officials are grossly negligent with their behaviors and act with reckless indifference.

One type of abuse in a prison setting occurs when a staff member of the facility physically attacks an inmate or encourages one or more other individuals to physically attack an inmate.

Another type of abusive behavior caused by prison officials occurs when a prison guard or other prison official is aware that an inmate requires medical attention, yet that official refuses to provide it. This choice then causes the inmate to suffer an injury or worsens an inmate’s pre-existing illness.

One final type of abuse in the prison setting occurs when the prison staff subjects inmates to physically intolerable living conditions. For example, prison staff may not sufficiently clean the facility, allowing for the presence of bacteria or mold. This can lead to inmates becoming ill. At other times, prison officials may force inmates to live in unreasonably hot or cold conditions, causing inmates’ health to decline.

If you or someone you love has been forced to endure intolerable or abusive living conditions while residing at a prison, then you may file a claim or lawsuit against the government. Our experienced prison inmate abuse attorneys can assist you with filing your claim and pursuing the damages that you need.

How Can Prison Officials Create Situations That Lead to Abuse or Neglect?

There are many ways that prison guards and other prison officials can create situations that lead to the neglect and abuse of inmates in prison. Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals, including those who are incarcerated, are protected from searches and seizures that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

When individuals who are incarcerated in prison are subjected to intolerable living conditions, or when prison officials behave in an unreasonable manner or apply an unreasonable amount of force under the circumstances, a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment rights may have been violated. In those instances, the affected inmate may file a claim for damages.

Officials in a prison may create a potentially abusive or neglectful situation when they do any of the following:

  • Punch, assault, or kick an inmate when it is unreasonable under the circumstances to use that degree of force
  • Cause the inmates to experience mental anguish or severe emotional distress by depriving them of food or sleep
  • Use offensive language against an inmate, including racial slurs, potentially leading to mental harm or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Make unnecessary threats to the inmate or engaging in some other type of verbal abuse
  • Use a physical restraint, such as a set of handcuffs, when such restraint is not necessary under the circumstances
  • Punishing and inmate out of spite, such as when a prison official places the inmate in a solitary confinement cell, when that type of punishment is not justified under the circumstances
  • Using a harmful substance against the inmate, such as pepper spray, when using such a substance is not required under the circumstances to physically subdue the inmate and bring him or her under control

Prison guards and other officials who work for a prison facility sometimes abuse their authority. When they do this, and inmates suffer injuries and other damages as a result, the affected inmates may file a claim or lawsuit for compensation.

How Other Inmates in a Prison May Cause Abuse or Neglect

Prison officials, such as prison guards and correctional officers, are not the only individuals who can cause abuse or neglect of inmates in a prison setting. Other inmates can sometimes bring about the abuse, usually through physical violence.

When other inmates cause the abuse or neglect, prison officials may still be partially responsible, due to prison guards and other officials’ duty to prevent inmate violence from occurring. They are required to be trained in recognizing warning signs of potential violence, and should know how to act to prevent such violence from occurring.

Cases Where a Prison Can Be Responsible for a Wrongful Death

In some situations, prison officials can be responsible for the wrongful death of an inmate occurring in the prison setting. A wrongful death is especially common in cases where prison officials do not promptly provide the medical care and attention that an inmate needs. If an inmate passes away as a result, then the prison may be responsible for the death.

A wrongful death claim is brought by the deceased inmate’s loved ones against the government, and an experienced prison inmate abuse lawyer can assist you with bringing a wrongful death claim and pursuing compensation.

Bringing Your Claim for Compensatory and Punitive Damages

There are two legal bases of recovery in cases where a prison inmate suffers injuries and damages as a result of abuse or neglect. In one case, the inmate can file a claim or lawsuit against the government based in tort. However, if the inmate passed away as a result of abuse or neglect in the prison, then his or her loved ones will be responsible for filing the claim. Specifically, they can file a wrongful death claim against the government.

To recover compensation in a negligence case, the claimant must show that a prison guard or other official, including police officers, failed to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. The inmate must also demonstrate that he or she suffered injuries and damages as a direct result of the abuse or neglect that occurred in the prison.

If the inmate can prove these elements, then he or she may recover monetary compensation. Monetary compensation may include compensation for all out-of-pocket costs, medical treatment, and lost wages. In addition, the inmate may pursue compensation for physical pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, and loss of spousal support and companionship.

In a wrongful death case, the deceased inmate’s loved ones must show that abuse or neglect at the prison resulted in the inmate’s death. If the wrongful death claimant can meet the required burden of proof, then he or she may pursue monetary compensation for the deceased inmate’s anticipated future income, as well as for pain and suffering which the inmate experienced up until the time of his or her death.

In some cases, prison abuse and neglect involves particularly heinous or egregious conduct on the part of prison officials, such as guards and correctional officers. When that happens, the inmate may bring a claim for punitive damages. The primary purpose of a punitive damage award is to punish the wrongdoer and to financially compensate the victim.

Our experienced prison inmate abuse attorneys can determine if you are eligible for certain damages and can pursue those damages on your behalf in federal court.

Talk to a Prison Inmate Abuse Lawyer Today

The experienced legal team at The Zeiger Firm is ready to assist you with pursuing a case against the government for abuse or neglect that occurred in a prison. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a prison inmate abuse attorney, please call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.