Prison and jail officials have a duty to protect the safety of inmates and suspects held in custody. But when a corrections officer or guard violates a person’s civil rights, it may seem as if there is no available recourse and no way of preventing the situation from happening again. However, people who have been incarcerated are not powerless. The best course of action after abuse or mistreatment occurs is to speak with an experienced attorney.
Officials who fail to protect or respect the rights of those in their prisons and jails can and should be held accountable. If you or a loved one was hurt or neglected in prison, we urge you to contact Gay & Chacker immediately. The sooner you speak with one of our attorneys, the sooner you can understand your legal rights, get justice, and begin the process of stopping future abuse from happening.
When to Look for a Lawyer for Prisoner Injuries
If an incident involving abuse or mistreatment occurred while you or a family member was in prison, a member of our firm will speak with you for free and without obligation. At Gay & Chacker, we have worked for decades to help end abuse by corrections officers and guards. Our goal is to make it right and for you to understand how you can take action. If you decide to retain our firm, we will fight to get you justice and compensation for the damages you or your loved one suffered. We will charge you no legal fees unless we prevail with your claim. Contact our firm to learn more about how we can help you.
What Are Prisoner Rights?
All Americans have fundamental rights, even in prison. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that prison walls “do not form a barrier separating inmates from the protections of the Constitution.” For example, under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, officers may not use excessive force against inmates, and they must protect them from the risk of assault. They may NOT use force with a malicious intent to harm an inmate.
Prison & Jail Abuse Lawyers
Whether you were a victim of prison guard abuse, police brutality, neglect, or other mistreatment, the act violated your basic civil rights. Abuse in prison and jail by a corrections officer or guard comes in many forms, such as:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse, assault, harassment, and rape
- Psychological abuse, such as taunting, threats, and humiliation
The Department of Corrections (DOC) protects prison and jail inmates from abuse, injury, and corporal or unusual punishment. According to the DOC, prison officers and guards can act abusively by:
- Using excessive force on an inmate.
- Making an unwarranted, life-threatening act against an inmate.
- Threatening, whether articulated verbally or written, to inflict physical injury on an inmate.
These general definitions are meant to cover abuse in its many forms. No matter the act, abuse is a civil rights violation and must be treated accordingly.
Sexual Abuse in Prison & Jail
Pennsylvania and New Jersey prisons have had serious problems with inmate mistreatment. Philadelphia jails in particular have one of the country’s highest counts of sexual abuse from prison guards. New Jersey prison surveys also have a high rate of sexual abuse, but investigations and convictions are uncommon. Sexual abuse or misconduct refers to any unwanted sexual behavior or act toward another person. These actions may include:
- Sexual contact, requests, threats or attempts
- Exhibitionism or voyeurism
- Sexually harassing behavior such as suggestive verbal comments or gestures
- Demeaning references to gender, sexuality, or an inmate’s body
The DOC has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse and harassment of inmates. Anyone who engages in, knowingly condones, or fails to report instances of sexual harassment or sexual abuse of an inmate could be subject to disciplinary action and criminal prosecution.
If it happened to you or a loved one, reporting the act immediately is critical. Then, speaking with an experienced attorney can help ensure the conduct stops and justice is served.
Protecting the Rights of Victims for Decades
The attorneys at Gay & Chacker have successfully advocated for many people who were harmed by negligence or abuse by police or prison staff. Below are a few cases we’ve handled.
In one case, a federal jury ordered a health care provider to pay $11.9 million to our client, the family of a man who committed suicide as an inmate a correctional facility. The lawsuit claimed that medical staff failed to evaluate the inmate’s risk for suicide and need for antidepressants. His wife had sought $800,000 to settle before trial but was rejected by the defendants. Our firm obtained a verdict nearly 15 times the initial settlement demand. The award included $8 million in punitive damages. Although that portion was reversed by judgment notwithstanding verdict (JNOV), we appealed this decision to the Third Circuit, which reversed the District Court Judge’s decision. The defendant was ordered to pay the $8 million and denied a new trial.
In another case, our firm obtained an $82,500 settlement for a man who was assaulted by two Philadelphia police officers. The assault led him to sustain physical injuries in addition to pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Another client was an inmate at a privately-run jail. He was being escorted to the law library by a correctional officer when he slipped in a recently mopped hallway. Our client fell and violently struck his head, hip, and knee. He underwent emergency surgery to place screws and rods to repair a hip fracture.
Each case is different, but one fact remains. The actions of police or prison staff led to the harm of our client, and we prevailed for them in seeking justice and compensation.
Prison & Jail Neglect Lawyers
Abuse is not the only way prison officers and guards can mistreat inmates. Neglect is also a civil rights violation. Those in charge can be neglectful by failing to:
- Provide medical attention
- Provide adequate meals to prevent hunger
- Control inmate violence
- Protect against or respond to assault or rape by other prisoners
- Prevent suicide
If you or a family member suffered abuse or other civil rights violation as a prison inmate, you may have a right to seek compensation for that harm. But there is no time to waste.
Based in Philadelphia, Gay & Chacker fights on behalf of mistreated inmates in state and federal prisons and county jails. We have a reputation for winning compensation for those injured by an officer’s negligence or misconduct. Our firm can investigate your situation, get answers, and get to work seeking justice and compensation for the harm done. Call us for a free consultation with an experienced civil rights lawyer.