New York City has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that guards at Rikers Island jail beat a man to death.
The civil suit, brought by the family of 52-year-old Ronald Spear, follows a city medical examiner's ruling that Spear's death was a homicide. The district attorney's office declined to press criminal charges against the guards alleged to have administered the fatal beating, reports the New York Daily News.
Why did the city settle, and how do you sue for prison abuses?
City Admits No Wrongdoing
In agreeing to the settlement, the city admits to no wrongdoing in the death of Spear, who at the time of his death was suffering from kidney problems and walked with a cane.
Following his arrest in September 2012, Spear had filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that he was being denied regular medical treatment and had often complained to corrections officers about his medications and dialysis treatments, reports The New York Times.
In his lawsuit, he claimed that corrections officers had retaliated against him for his requests for medical treatment. About two weeks after filing the suit, Spears reportedly got into a disagreement with an officer at the jail regarding his treatment. According to sworn statements by two other inmates, the officer grabbed Spears arm and hit him, knocking him down. As Spears lay on the floor, two officers held him whole the first officer kicked him in the head and chest.
The Spears family's lawyer told The New York Times that the settlement "seems to reflect a recognition on the part of the city that something terribly wrong happened here." The family has called on federal prosecutors to investigate, according to the Daily News.
How Can You Sue for Prisoner Abuse?
Inmates who have been subject to abuse by prison staff while incarcerated have a few options for getting help. These include:
- Filing a CRIPA complaint. The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act gives those in state prisons or county jails a process through which reports of abuses can be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Filing a federal civil rights lawsuit. Inmates can also file a suit alleging that their constitutional rights have been infringed under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code.
In addition to the above options, inmates and their families can consult with a civil rights attorney to learn more about their legal rights.
- New York City Settles Inmate Death Lawsuit for $2.75 million (Reuters)
- Inmate Can't Sue for Prison for Injury (FindLaw's Injured)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger Sued by Calif. Inmates Over Valley Fever (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- Prisoner Health Care: Death in a Boston Jail (FindLaw's Injured)