Inhumane treatment while in jail...

by Nicole
(Ventura, CA)

I was in jail for 11 days and was kicking a 2 year heavy heroin habit. I was unable to get more than 2 kites (letter/message) while in there. I was freezing with a fever and throwing up until I had nothing left, but my body kept trying and unable to hold my bowels. I requested an additional blanket and was ignored.

I was given 1 pair of underwear, a pair of pants, a t shirt, a smock and a nightgown. I could not help it and repeatedly crapped and pissed my pants and begged for new clothes and was never given any, nor was I given a towel. I was using my nightgown for a towel, which wouldn't dry all the way yet I had to wear it at night wet and freezing and sick.

I begged to be taken to the hospital as I was dehydrated and having chest pains (rang the buzzer more than 10 times in 1 night). They had me puke in a bag and check my heart rate and blood pressure and said I was probably just having a hard time being in jail and to suck it up a sent me back to my bunk.

I didn't eat or sleep the entire time I was there either, and felt near death when I was bailed out my 11th day. I feel I was horribly mistreated and am terrified of cops and the thought of going back. I break down crying and get very emotional thinking or speaking of what happened.

I am terrified to think what could've happened had I stayed one or two more days. I was so weak and sick when I got out. I'm traumatized to say the least. Can I be compensated for emotional damage? Or at least do something to prevent them from treating others that way? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Inhumane treatment while in jail...":

Nicole (Ventura, CA):

Public employees, including law enforcement and corrections officers, are protected by California’s Governmental Sovereign Immunity rule. Sovereign immunity means public employees, while acting within the scope of their normal and customary work duties, can not be held liable for acts or omissions which result in injuries to others, including prisoners.

However, if there is conclusive evidence the public employee was acting outside of his or her normal and customary work duties, or if the employee displayed gross negligence or a wanton disregard for the safety and well-being of another person, sovereign immunity may be set aside.

"Inhumane treatment" might be considered gross negligence or a wanton disregard for the safety of others. In your case it appears hospital treatment may have been warranted. Heroin withdrawal can be dangerous, and in some cases, life-threatening.

If you intend to proceed with a negligence claim against the city, county, or state corrections department where you were incarcerated, you will need proof the corrections officer was acting outside of his or her customary work duties, or displayed gross negligence or a wanton disregard for your safety.

To establish that degree of negligence will require medical proof you were in a life-threatening situation, the corrections officer knew that, and failed to take appropriate action. Moreover, you will have to prove that omission was the direct and proximate cause of your injury.

However, you will also have to prove "damages." This means as a result of the incident you sustained medical or therapy bills, out of pocket expenses (for such items as medications, bandages, costs of transportation to treatment, etc.) and lost wages.

It is important to note, if you intend to pursue a negligence claim against the city, county, or state, you will substantially jeopardize that claim if during a court ordered medical evaluation you are found to have heroin or other opioids in your system.

To read California's State Sovereign Immunity law go to:
California Government Code, Sections 820.4, 820.6, 820.8

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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