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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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For Paul MJD: There is overcrowding in a county jail in Oklahoma.

Resolved Question:

For Paul MJD: There is overcrowding in a county jail in Oklahoma. The jail is designed for 2 people to a cell and now some have 3 to a cell.Who above the sheriff can a person complain to?

Is it true that an inmate can file suit against the jail when that happens?

This same jail the parent of an inmate has requested the pamphlet that is given to inmates with rules and regs, medical care rights etc. but the sheriff refused to give out the pamphlet claiming under the public records act they don't have to give out information with security info in them. Why would inmates be given a pamphlet with security info in it?

The parent has found that the DOJ investigated this jail some years ago the jail administrators made some agreement with DOJ to follow certain guidelines in reference to treatment of inmates. Is DOJ the ones to be contacted or is there some State authority that a person can talk to?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your new question.

Yes, inmates file suit over overcrowding all of the time. The suits are brought in Federal court under the 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and that is what they claim overcrowding to be. The refusal to provide the inmates with their rights is brought under the 5th, 6th and 8th amendments as well.

If they are under a order from DOJ, then in addition to suit, you can file a new complaint with the DOJ and the DOJ will go back in and investigate.

This is how these prison violations are handled.



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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Ok great. The inmate in question, there are only two people to his cell but others have three. Could he still file a lawsuit?


 


 


This is an completely enclosed jail. They have pods they are in 20 hrs a day then they can come out 2 hrs in morning and 2hrs in afternoon into a bigger pod where they can watch tv, exercise etc. except on the week end when they are not allowed out of their cell in the morning. Is this standard procedure for county jails? Who regulates how much time they are allowed out of the cell? Is there some kind of a federal standard on that?


 


Also what about the pamphlet given to inmates, shouldn't the parent (or any citizen) be able to see what is going on inside the jail to see if inmate's rights are being violated?

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your follow up.

The inmate in question is grasping at straws if he only has 2 people to his cell and would not have any right to sue because he is not personally affected by this.. Even 3 to a cell now is not really going to be sufficient to prove a case in federal court. The federal courts are looking for significant over crowding, like 4+ people to a 2 person cell.

Time is cells or out of cells is wholly to the discretion of the warden of the prison. There is no requirement under constitution or any statute a prisoner has to be allowed any time out of their cell. In fact there are many prisons where prisoners are allowed not more than 1 hour a day and many times that 1 hour can be in the middle of the night and the courts have not held this to be unconstitutional or illegal. How prisoners are held and what they are allowed to do in the prison is regulated only by the warden of that facility I am afraid and it is not designed nor expected by the courts to be a friendly and hospitable place to be.

It is meant to be punishment and in fact the US Constitution in the 13th Amendment might shock you, since it allows inmates to be actually treated like slaves (with very few but only basic human rights). Here is the 13 Amendment, which did abolish slavery and read it carefully to see what it says:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Thus, his rights are going to be extremely limited as to what he can complain about because he is being locked in a cell all day without any free time out of the cell or about the conditions of the facility as most of these claims do not rise to the level of severity for the court to find them violating the 8th Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 91313
Experience: Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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