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Perhaps that's the point of incarceration, but jails and prisons are not nice places to be. These houses of detention, designed to keep the public safe, don't always keep the inmates safe. From overcrowding and unsafe conditions to violence and prisoner abuse, injuries happen in prison, but are these injuries treated like those on the outside? Do inmates have any legal recourse for injuries or abuse in prison?
Here are some of the biggest questions (and answers) concerning prison injuries, from our archives.
What if you're not supposed to even be in jail in the first place? Can wrongful imprisonment be an injury in and of itself? Some innocent inmates have sued -- and garnered multimillion-dollar settlements -- for overturned convictions, especially in cases of police or prosecutorial misconduct.
Former inmates and those currently incarcerated do have legal options if they are injured or abused in prison. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act allows inmates to sue for injuries or harm caused to them in state prisons or local jails, based on violations of the prisoner's constitutional rights. Those injured in a federal prison may be able to file what's known as a Bivens action to recover for injuries.
The only problem with the options listed above is that those kinds of lawsuits don't apply to private prisons or their employees. Therefore, inmates injured in private prisons may need to file standard tort lawsuits based on negligence or intentional torts like battery.
Prisons don't have the reputation of being the most hygienic places, so what happens if you just get sick? If you fall ill because of a prison-wide issue, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) provides a way for federal inmates to reports complaints directly to the Department of Justice. If you have a pre-existing condition that goes untreated or worsens because of substandard care in prison, you may need to file a standard tort action.
In some tragic cases, prison injuries can lead to death. And surviving spouses and family members may be able to file wrongful death claims against the persons or prison responsible.
Any time you're considering suing a jail or prison you should consult with an experienced attorney first.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.