It’s never easy to hear that someone you care about has been “taken into custody.” But when the authorities allow that person to be hurt or killed in prison, “custody” takes on a double meaning. Prisoners in the hands of state, federal or private prisons cannot help themselves; they must rely on the prisons to keep them safe and to meet their basic needs for clean food, medical care and exercise. Authorities have a legal obligation to make sure that those taken into custody are protected from abusive guards, dangerous inmates and, if necessary, themselves.
Prison employees are supposed to be law enforcement professionals, but reports from around the country show that many abuse or neglect prisoners, sometimes routinely. Sexual assault alone is estimated by the nonprofit Stop Prison Rape to affect a quarter of all female prisoners and a fifth of all male prisoners. Unfortunately, there are many forms prison abuse can take:
- Physical abuse or torture
- Abuse of authority to confine or otherwise punish prisoners
- Withholding access to medical or dental care, or medication
- Withholding adequate food and water
- Verbal or psychological abuse
- Intentionally placing a prisoner with dangerous inmates
- Failing to protect a prisoner from dangerous inmates
- Sexual abuse
- Insufficient monitoring of suicidal inmates
Regardless of what a prisoner has done or been accused of, this is horrifying and unacceptable. In addition to being a violation of victims’ dignity and human rights, these are illegal violations of their civil rights. This unthinking cruelty may also deal victims a serious setback on the road to rehabilitation. And in cases where a prisoner dies, it’s a crime against his or her innocent loved ones as well, and a permanent loss of that prisoner’s potential, rehabilitation and future.
Human rights and civil rights do not stop at the prison door — but some prison supervisors act as if they do. If you or a loved one was victimized by abusive practices in a prison, you have rights. With a prison abuse or wrongful death lawsuit, you can stop some abusive practices, perhaps help others avoid the same treatment, and win compensation for the costs associated with the abuse, including pain and suffering and emotional trauma. In some cases, with the representation of a skilled prison injury attorney, you may be able to win punitive damages that punish wrongdoers for knowingly violating the law.
Since 1996, attorney Steven H. Heisler has focused his practice only on defending the rights of injured people. Prisoners may not be the most sympathetic victims in media reports, but Heisler believes they still deserve to be free of abuse, neglect and other forms of cruelty. Steve currently represents several families of individuals who have committed suicide while incarcerated. If you suspect or know that the rights of a loved one in prison have been violated, call the law offices of Steven H. Heisler today to discuss what you can do. An initial consultation is always confidential, free and comes with no further obligation on your part.