Wrongful Death in Prisons and Jails

Jails and prisons aren’t supposed to be happy, fun places. When someone commits a crime or felony, their time behind bars is a punishment. It strips them away of their basic liberties, keeps them away from society, and prevents them from committing further crimes. When someone is incarcerated, their sentence serves as a constant, sometimes brutal reminder of their wrongdoings.

The Rights of Prisoners

However, prisoners still have rights. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), incarcerated people retain the right to:

  • Humane facilities and conditions
  • Freedom from sexual crimes
  • Freedom from discrimination and racial segregation
  • Express condition complaints
  • Assert their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Medical care and attention
  • Appropriate mental health care

Even when a prisoner commits a heinous crime, like rape or murder, they are still have these rights. Violations of these rights have serious legal and personal consequences. In cases involving the right to medical care, a violation of these rights can lead to a wrongful death.

Lawsuit Against Pinellas County Jail

A recent lawsuit against the Pinellas County jail exemplifies the issue of prisoner rights and the important of adequate medical care in jails and prisons. The lawsuit centers around a 58-year old inmate. He was serving a yearlong sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia, which is a misdemeanor. During his stay at the jail in 2016, he complained of chest pains and was treated for heartburn. His further complaints went ignored. Days before his death from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, he was told that his pain was muscular, simply caused by his work of cleaning floors at the jail. His family is now suing the jail, claiming that their treatments were inadequate and that their negligence caused the man’s wrongful death.

There are many other situations where a jail or prison might be liable for an inmate’s injuries or death. Other examples of wrongful death or injury in a jail or prison might include cases where an inmate:

  • Kills or seriously injures themselves while on suicide watch
  • Suffers abuse from a guard or other official
  • Is assaulted or attacked by another inmate due to improper supervision
  • Does not receive necessary treatment or medication for a pre-existing condition

Determining Wrongful Death

When cases like these occur, determining liability can be difficult. Who is liable for a death or injuries depends on many factors, including whether the inmate was at a jail or prison, if they were in a state or federal prison, and if the prison was public or private. Negligence or wrongful behavior can also be difficult to prove, as they may not be witnesses to the events.

Like with any wrongful death case, it is important for family members of a decreased inmate to act quickly and consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney. When someone is incarcerated, they are meant to experience punishment, but no one should wrongfully die.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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