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Pursuing Legal Action for Jail Abuse and Civil Rights

This content about civil rights was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

Many inmates of all genders, ages, and races are injured or die in jail, but the unfortunate fact is that these injuries and deaths are usually unwarranted, and in many cases, preventable. It is law enforcement officers’ duty to protect those under their supervision, so when they abuse their power and/or fail to act in service of that duty, they can be held liable by way of a civil rights lawsuit.

Inmates and prisoners who are victims of jail abuse may have grounds to legally initiate a civil rights lawsuit, and if they succeed, they may be able to demand monetary damages and even an injunction to prevent future abuse.

Inmate’s rights

Some of the most common types of abuse from prison guards include beating and kicking of inmates, use of excessive force, tasers, or pepper spray, sexual assault, and verbal abuse, among others. However, the facility itself can be considered abusive if it denies adequate care for inmates or fails to prevent abuse from other inmates.

Even when incarcerated, inmates are still entitled to their constitutional and civil rights, such as the following:

    • Equal protection (14th Amendment): this right protects inmates from discrimination due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.
    • Due process (5th and 14th Amendments): protects inmates from certain types of jail abuse such as prolonged periods of solitary confinement without a hearing.
    • Prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures (4th Amendment): this protects inmates against abuse in the form of a search or seizure, such as when prison guards strip searches excessively.
  • Protection from cruel and unusual punishments (8th Amendment): this prohibition protects prisoners from abuse and abusive environments.

Legal recourses for abused inmates and Civil Rights

Inmate abuse by prison guards or facilities can violate constitutional and civil rights, which gives the prisoner grounds to pursue legal action, including filing a complaint with the facility, filing a civil rights lawsuit in state court, an filing a civil rights lawsuit under Section 1983 in federal court.

Both types of civil rights lawsuits can result in monetary damages and injunctive relief. Monetary damages compensate the inmate who suffered the abuse and may include punitive damages as well, which punish the facility or prison guard. On the other hand, an injunction can court order the facility to take the necessary actions to prevent the abuse from happening in the future.

Civil rights lawsuits can face many obstacles, especially those demanding monetary damages as the plaintiff must overcome the qualified immunity defense. If you or someone you loved has suffered jail abuse, an attorney with experience in California civil rights cases can give you sound advice and help you build your case.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content about civil rights was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.