You might believe that prison guards are meant to maintain order, security and discipline. And while that is the case, guards must also recognize the safety and rights of those they oversee. But in some unfortunate circumstances, prisoners suffer at the hands of those employed to maintain a civil environment.
In one such case of alleged assault by a prison guard, attorney Edward Sivin of Sivin & Miller, LLP helped an inmate bring a lawsuit against New York State. And a judge from the Court of Claims at Albany recently found the state liable for the prisoner's injuries.
Why a judge ruled in favor of an inmate
According to news reports, the inmate suffered injuries and unconsciousness due to blows to the head by a guard's baton. The allegations in the suit also included permanent nerve damage, which resulted in the prisoner's speech impairment, paralysis of his right side and facial drooping.
While the amount of financial damages has not yet been determined, the judge ruled in the inmate's favor based on factors which included:
- Prison records did not identify the guard involved.
- Guards did not document events by filing an Unusual Incident Report.
- The prison did not conduct an internal investigation.
Although imprisonment restricts certain rights, such as privacy, an inmate cannot be subjected to "cruel and unusual" punishment. Any inhumane actions, or those which involve an inmate's dignity, may violate constitutional rights.
The violent history of Attica Correctional Facility
Packed with more than 2,200 inmates, Attica is the largest employer in the Wyoming County area. More than 600 officers (nearly all of them white) control the inmates (who are primarily Hispanic or black).
The facility is infamously known nationwide for the astonishingly bloody riot that occurred in 1971. A total of 43 men - both prison personnel and inmates - died and 89 more were injured during the mutinous uprising. To this day, prison guards remember the riot, and the fear of another mutiny colors their actions in many ways.
Unfortunately, fear of being attacked and overwhelmed by violent inmates often prompts excessive and violent force by the prison guards. This is illustrated by the severe beating inflicted on 29-year-old inmate George Williams, whom attorney Edward Sivin is also representing. Such needless violence is never acceptable. Whether behind bars or not, every person is granted certain legal rights - including the right to be free from excessive force.
If you or a loved one experience abuse by correctional officers, you should understand your rights and fully explore your options for holding them accountable.