It is true that time spent in prison is supposed to be a punishment. However, people in jail have the same right to life that everyone has. While the politics and culture of prison life may be significantly different, the law still applies. A person who participates in or allows a fatality to occur, no matter where, can still be held liable for a wrongful death in Florida.
Recently, the mother of an 18-year-old boy was awarded $2 million after her son was brutally beaten and killed while in jail. Guards and prisoners were among those involved in the assault.
The young man was serving a short time in Rikers Island for a minor parole violation, after he worked late and broke his probation curfew. According to reports, the young man was beaten and killed by a group of prisoners known as The Program.
Members of The Program enforce jail rules with volatile beatings and intimidation tactics. Corrupt correction officers enlist the help of these inmates to keep control of the prison population. Some sources suggest that the young man in this case had challenged the authority of The Program, which led to the assault. Members of The Program brutally beat the young man while at least two correction officers looked on.
Two officers involved are serving short jail sentences but were not implicated of any direct involvement in this case. The two inmates who killed the young man are serving 10 and 12 years in prison for their acts. The $2 million will come from New York City, as Rikers is a city jail.
Money never fully repairs the damage done when a loved one is lost. While the mother of the victim says that $2 million does not matter, the fact that the behavior was uncovered and a settlement was awarded to the victim's family is important.
Days before this settlement was announced, another group of current and former inmates in city jails came together to seek class action status in a federal lawsuit. Their aim is to draw attention to rampant abusive behavior that they claim is permitted in city jails. With cases like this recent death in the news, hopefully this vicious and cruel behavior in jails will be stopped.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "NYC to pay $2M to mom in wrongful death settlement," June 8, 2012