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Inmates in jails and prisons lose some of their constitutional and legal rights, but not all. State and federal laws make it difficult for inmates to succeed in filing lawsuits and either changing policy or collecting damages. Inmates and their loved ones must understand their rights, recognize violations when they occur, and know how to seek justice for their abuse, neglect, or civil rights violations.

Can You File a Lawsuit Against a Jail for Inmate Mistreatment?

Jail and prison officials must follow state and federal laws in their treatment of inmates. If they violate your rights, you can sue them to change their practices or sue for damages in cases of injuries. Taking the proper steps in doing so is critical to your success, as the deck is stacked against inmates who wish to sue.

If you believe your rights were violated in jail, contact an experienced civil rights attorney who knows how to file a lawsuit against a jail and has experience suing a county jail for negligence or other violations. Skilled lawyers will understand the unique steps to take in these cases, such as going through the prison administrative process for complaints before filing, and will help you ensure you get the justice you deserve. 

Common Types of Inmate Abuse in Jail

Unfortunately, inmate abuse is not uncommon in jails, and inmates face more hurdles when attempting to file lawsuits than those outside correctional facilities. Contact a prisoner abuse attorney if you or a loved one experienced:

  • Lack of medical care
  • Unsafe medical treatment
  • Sexual abuse or sexual assault by prison staff or other inmates
  • Unsafe conditions
  • Physical abuse
  • Excessive force
  • Unnecessary or prolonged solitary confinement

Several state and federal laws protect your rights, and lawyers who sue jails and win know how to navigate the system to increase your chances of a successful lawsuit against a correctional facility. A personal injury attorney may be able to help you collect monetary damages if you were physically harmed.

What Are the Constitutional Rights of an Inmate?

Inmates are afforded the protections of the Constitution, though in some cases, there are limits on their freedoms and rights based on their inmate status.

Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment are in place for an inmate in county jail and state or federal prison. Lack of medical care, extended stays in solitary confinement, and inmate abuse are all issues your jail neglect attorney can raise in an Eighth Amendment lawsuit against the Department of Corrections.

Prisoners are also protected under the First Amendment. However, their rights to religion, speech, and assembly are often curtailed by the compelling interests of the county or state in maintaining order. 

Inmate rights against unreasonable searches and seizures listed in the Fourth Amendment are also limited. Jail officials can search cells and inmates, who have no expectation of privacy, as long as they don't target only specific groups protected by law.

Inmates in jails may also have rights and privileges under state law. For example, Minimum Standards for Jails and Lockups are in Virginia's Administrative Code. 

How to Get Started on Filing a Lawsuit Against a Jail

There are hurdles to overcome in filing prisoner lawsuits, so it is critical to be prepared and seek the guidance of an experienced attorney to help you avoid mistakes that could end your case.

Collect Essential Evidence of Civil Rights Violations

While you should always be careful when collecting information in jail, it can help your case if you can back up your claim that policies or actions violated your legal rights. Note when violations occurred and who was involved. Also, note if other inmates are experiencing the same mistreatment or if there are specific guards who regularly engage in abusive behaviors.

Keep any notifications in writing from the jail about policy, disciplinary infractions, or hearings. Your attorney can also help you collect medical records and other evidence to support your claim if you are suing a county jail for medical negligence.

Understand the Appropriate Jurisdiction

You can go directly to federal court if there is a violation of your constitutional rights or a violation of a federal law, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. You can also sue for violations of inmates' rights in state court if there is a violation of state law. If you do so, the Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act requires that you file in the city or county in which the jail where you are housed is located.

You must file your complaint in the proper court, so ask an experienced attorney for help. A delay could result in an expiration of the statute of limitations you must meet for a court to consider your case.

File an Administrative Complaint

Before you can file a lawsuit for inmate abuse, you must first file an administrative complaint with the jail and follow through on any follow-up that is part of the jail procedure. You may have to go through several hearings and appeals before you exhaust your administrative options. You mustn't skip any steps, as that could result in a judge throwing out a lawsuit.

File the Lawsuit Against the Jail

Once you have tried to settle your case and find justice for your prisoners' rights complaints within the jail administrative system, you can file a lawsuit against the jail. You can do so yourself, but an experienced inmates' rights attorney can help you more successfully make your case to change a policy. Having a lawyer to sue the jail can also help if you seek abuse compensation for being in jail and suffering physical harm.

Get Guidance On Your Lawsuit From a Civil Rights Attorney

Being an inmate is stressful enough. You or your loved one shouldn't also have to worry about your safety and health based on civil rights violations. Your rights are curtailed at the jail gates, but they don't go away, and you deserve protection. If you need help with an inmate's rights claim, contact the experienced civil rights law firm Commonwealth Law Group.

If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.