The Legal Investigator Vol.37, Issue 2, Summer 2012 : Page 2
criminal focus by Jennifer Brown, J.D., CLI Abuse and “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” 8th Amendment, U.S. Constitution When a person is imprisoned, they are inherently placed in a situation where they are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves and they are at the mercy of the government. Because of this, the government has an obligation to protect prisoners from harm, neglect and abuse by both staff and other inmates. Unfortunately, abuse and cruelty in U.S. jails and prisons are rampant and even considered “normal.” Staff routinely refer to abuses as “part of prison life” and courts often rule in their favor under the guise of deferring to prison officials’ declarations that what happens behind prison walls is necessary to ensure order. It would be easy to fill this entire issue of The Legal Investigator with instances of mistreatment from any one randomly selected institution. It is important to be aware of how our clients are being treated—not only for their own safety and well being, but because When Your Client is Subjected to in Jail or Prison mistreatment of inmates by prison or jail staff that rises to the level of “cruel and unusual treatment” is a violation of a guaranteed right. Many times, these cases need to be litigated in order for a client to get relief from ongoing abuse or neglect, and investigators are needed to research, interview and document instances of cruel and unusual punishment. Abuse comes in many forms—inmate on inmate, guard on inmate, abuse due to poor prison conditions and abuse resulting from inadequate health or psychological care. Inmates are frequently subject to excessive and unnecessary force by guards, such as being kicked, tased, pepper sprayed or having restraints put on too tightly for simple trips to the shower or legal visits. One inmate at a maximum security facility where each was in solitary confinement told me that it is not unusual for the entire unit to be tear-gassed when one inmate starts acting up (usually due to extreme mental health issues). The entire unit suffers needlessly when one inmate is suffering from solitary-induced psychosis. How is that not cruel towards not only the mentally ill the legal investigator Neglect “ 4 It is important to be aware of how our clients are being treated— not only for their own safety and well being, but because mistreatment of inmates by prison or jail staff that rises to the level of “cruel and unusual treatment” is a violation of a guaranteed right.