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Prisoner’s Rights: What is Excessive Force?




As a prisoner in the United States, you must be protected against assault and excessive force. Prisoners, including those held in jail pending a pending trial as well as those incarcerated, must be free from excessive force used by jail or prison personnel.

You must also be protected from an assault by another prisoner. This post discusses prisoners’ rights, inmates’ rights, situations in which excessive force may be used and steps to take if you believe that another party has violated your rights.


What Is Excessive Force in Jail or Prison?


Firstly, let’s review what constitutes excessive force in jails and prisons, both as they relate to jail and prison employees and other employees within correctional facilities:

  • Correctional officers, police officers, and others are permitted to use force as part of their duties. Correctional officers or staff may use force when and if the conditions dictate it.

  • In these jobs, officers may need to restrain inmates to protect themselves, another staff member, or another prisoner.

  • Workers aren’t allowed to use too much force, or excessive force. This may happen when a police officer or correctional officer uses excessive force in the matter at hand, or when force is unwarranted.

  • Police officers and correctional officers who use excessive force on a suspect or a prisoner without apparent reason may be held responsible for their actions.


Prisoner Rights Under the Law


If you are incarcerated in a correctional facility, you have the following rights:

  • You are protected against excessive force by others. Although prison guards may use force to maintain order, they cannot use sadistic, deadly, or malicious force.

  • Inmates have a right to protection from assault by guards or officials in the facility.

  • Inmates have a right to protection from assault by other inmates. When an official knows of possible harm to an inmate, he or she is supposed to protect them. The prison official may be breaking the law if he or she does not intervene.

  • The prisoner has a right to protection from certain conditions. In cases of jail overcrowding, insufficient prison staff, or unsecured cells, prison administrators and officers may be held accountable


Many prisoners are abused by correctional officers. The Supreme Court recently ordered that juries must consider whether excessive force was deserved or appropriate, regardless of the intentions of correctional employees, when such force is used against a pretrial detainee. K Altman Law represents individual or groups of victims (or their families) abused or subjected to excessive force in prisons and jails.


Winning an excessive force case, like other prisoners’ rights cases, is challenging. As a result of our extensive experience in these cases, including litigation experience in excessive force lawsuits, we are committed to obtaining justice for our clients.


How to Protect Your Rights in Jail or Prison


You should take immediate action to protect your legal rights if you or someone you love is the victim of excessive force or assault while in prison:

  • If an inmate or prison official assaulted you, file a grievance, or formal complaint, as soon as possible. Make sure your grievance is recognized by filing an appeal if needed.

  • You should tell another prison staff member if you were assaulted by another inmate or if you feel you are in danger from a staff member or an inmate. Keep a written record if possible.

  • Consult an excessive force civil rights lawyer to determine the best course of action.


Our Experience in Excessive Force and Prisoners’ Rights Cases


Our firm has extensive experience representing men and women in custody. Throughout the years, we have represented both individual inmates and classes of inmates. In all 50 states, we represent prisoners and their loved ones.

Whenever we accept a prisoners’ rights case, we believe one or more constitutional violations have occurred. We work tirelessly to bring justice to our clients and their loved ones. We rigorously prepare each case for trial, even though many lawsuits are settled before trial.

Our firm is known for its willingness to take on difficult cases in court. Correctional and/or medical expert witnesses are frequently called to testify about the standard of care in a correctional setting in prisoners’ rights and excessive force cases.

Whether in prison or jail, if you or someone you love is being denied proper conditions of confinement, seek immediate legal advice. Keith Altman can be reached at 248-987-8929 or by email at SD@kaltmanlaw.com. You can also write to Attorney Altman at 33228 West 12 Mile Road, Ste. 375, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 or call 248-987-8929 collect. Please mark your envelope “Attention: Prisoners’ Rights.”

Understand that every legal claim is limited by a deadline, known as the statute of limitations. A lawsuit must be filed within a certain time period to preserve your rights.

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