Prison isn’t a fun place to be, but that doesn’t mean prisoners should be subjected to abuse and neglect in the name of punishment. Yet, prison abuse allegations are on the rise in the United States in both state-owned and privately held prisons. Reports of abuse and inhumane treatment continue to surface about prisons in New Mexico, with some inmates filing a civil lawsuit.
There are nine prisons in New Mexico. Six are owned by the state and another three are owned by private entities. When prisoners feel their civil rights are violated, they have recourse. Contacting a law firm skilled in prison abuse violations is a crucial part of the process.
What rights do prisoners have behind bars?
Just because you are imprisoned as punishment for a crime doesn’t mean you lose all your rights while behind bars. You still have the right to a minimum standard of living and to be treated fairly without discrimination based on your race, sex, national origin, or religion. You also retain free speech and religion rights if they do not interfere with the status of other inmates.
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. Access to the parole process and due process for administrative appeals are included in these safeguards.
How is a private prison different from a state-owned prison?
Unfortunately, New Mexico’s use of private prisons exceeds that of other states. More than half of all prisoners incarcerated in the state are serving their sentences in private prisons, according to data from The Sentencing Project, which monitors private prisons in the U.S. In comparison, only 8 percent of prisoners nationally are housed in private prisons.
Public prisons are owned and operated by the state or federal government. Taxpayers foot the bill to operate them. Because they are taxpayer-funded, public prisons have strict reporting requirements and oversight by the government.
Private prisons receive funding from government contracts and other third-party investors. They are not required to release information about inmate populations or how the money they receive is being used to run the prison. Private prisons can pick and choose which prisoners they accept, with a tendency toward less violent inmates.
Despite favoring less violent inmates, a 2017 Justice Department report concluded that private prisons were more dangerous and less effective at reforming prisoners.
Why would you sue a private prison?
Injuries and abuse are the top reasons inmates sue private prisons. Other reasons may include becoming ill or injured due to negligence on the part of prison administration or staff. How you handle these kinds of incidents in a private prison is severely limited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
One of the starkest differences between public and private prisons is how inmates seek legal recourse for abuse and other mistreatment. Prisoners in public prisons can sue under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act if they are injured or abused.
Detainees in private prisons do not have the same ability since the prisons aren’t government-run. They must instead file standard tort lawsuits based on negligence or intentional torts like those used for battery.
What is private prison negligence?
Private prisons exist for one reason only: to make a profit. Putting profit above prisoner safety and security can be a common theme among private prisons. It’s not rare to see them accused of engaging in careless, dangerous, and negligent acts to save money. Failing to maintain adequate staffing levels is one way that private prisons put profit over prisoner well-being.
An attorney skilled in personal injury and civil rights laws can help prisoners and their families navigate abuses and other forms of neglect within the private prison system. The team at Cameron and Russell have the knowledge and experience to help you resolve private prison issues. Give us a call at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your case evaluation.