Jail is designed so that nobody likes going there. However, the Constitution still prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, and people who are being held on criminal charges do not forfeit basic human rights. While TV and movies like to play up jail violence, this is not something that's acceptable in real life. Here are your legal rights to be free from violence while you're being held in jail.
Can a Jail Sanction Violence?
Some people who look down on criminals may feel that jail violence is a part of the punishment. A jail cannot take this approach no matter how popular that public opinion may be.
Corrections officers are only permitted to use the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to break up fights and ensure lawful orders are complied with. They may not rough up prisoners as a form of punishment or retribution.
Prisoners cannot be allowed to assault each other either to police disagreements among themselves or at the encouragement of a corrections officer. Corrections officers who have encouraged inmate assaults as a form of informal punishment have been arrested.
Does a Jail Have to Prevent Violence?
A jail cannot allow violence, but does that mean it has to prevent violence? While it does not have an absolute duty to prevent all forms of violence, it needs to take reasonable steps to prevent it.
This includes having adequate staffing to keep inmates under observation to spot signs of potential trouble. There should also be a response plan to quickly stop assaults and fights so that injuries are minimized.
Jails also need to take reasonable steps to keep inmates with negative histories apart and to keep those who are more likely to suffer violence apart from the general population.
What Happens if You're Assaulted in Jail?
If you're assaulted in jail, whether before trial or after a conviction, you have the same rights as any other person. This includes the ability to file a lawsuit against the jail.
Like with other lawsuits, you will need to prove that the jail had an obligation to prevent the harm and failed to take reasonable steps to do so. If you win, you are entitled to your medical expenses as well as compensation for any long term or permanent disability.
To learn more about your rights while you're in jail or to get information on how to seek compensation if your rights were violated, talk to a local criminal defense attorney, like R. Patrick McPherson Attorney At Law, today.