Home / Blog / Who Can Be Held Liable for Sexual Assault in Jails?

Despite their incarceration, detainees in jails and inmates in prison still have rights. Unfortunately, they can be left vulnerable to abuse by those in power due to their situation. Detainees and inmates are vulnerable to sexual assault by prison staff. A detainee or inmate’s criminal background and conviction have no bearing on their right to live free from abuse.

If you or a loved one have been sexually assaulted or abused in prison by staff, you have rights. Prison sexual assault lawsuits are a way to seek compensation for the pain you or your loved one have endured. The sexual assault lawyers at Wagner Reese can help you understand what rights you have, what restitution you may be owed, and what steps you can take to achieve justice.

Detainee and Inmate Rights

The rights of incarcerated persons are protected by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. While restricted from exercising all the rights enumerated under the Constitution, the Eighth Amendment guarantees incarcerated persons’ freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Subsequent Supreme Court cases have ruled that this guarantees prisoners a minimum standard of living.

In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Farmer v. Brennan that the provisions of the Eighth Amendment place a duty on jailers to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical assaults, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape.

Can Prison Staff Be Sued?

While on duty, prison staff are covered under the ‘Qualified Immunity’ doctrine. Qualified immunity protects government officials from being sued for monetary damage for actions they performed while working within the scope of their professional responsibilities.

However, qualified immunity doesn’t protect prison officers or jail staff from loss or liability if their acts were carried out intentionally to cause harm to an inmate. Sexual assault against a detainee or an inmate violates their civil rights and is a felony under state and federal law.

The 2013 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) reiterates that local, state, and federal incarceration facilities must maintain a zero-tolerance policy on sexual relationships between staff and inmates. According to PREA, even consensual sexual encounters between officers and inmates are prohibited. All sexual interactions of this kind are seen as sexual abuse by the authoritative figure.

Additionally, prison staff who observe or know of other prison officers abusing inmates and fail to intervene can also be held liable for violating that prisoner’s constitutional rights.

Bring Your Abusers to Justice with Wagner Reese

Many prison sexual assault victims suffer silently while their abusers’ actions go unpunished. At Wagner Reese, we ensure your rights as a prisoner are protected. We hold responsible parties accountable for their actions, regardless of their authoritative position.

The team at Wagner Reese take a professional and sensitive approach to prison sexual assault cases and help survivors of abuse and assault receive the compensation they deserve.

Contact Wagner Reese today or schedule a free consultation online to discuss your case and learn how we can defend your rights.