Member of:
Justia Lawyer Rating
American Association for Justice
Union Plus

New York Inmate Abuse Lawyer

Some may question whether prisoners have rights that should be protected. Afterall, they are in prison because they were found to have broken the law. However, it's important to understand that even though inmates have broken the law, they still have certain rights protected under New York and federal law. Despite being incarcerated, individuals have the right to be treated with a degree of humanity and fairness. This means that they have the right to be free from abuse. Yet inmate abuse and neglect is a persistent problem in New York prisons. In a recent case, the family of Casey Holloway, an inmate put in a chokehold and killed by another inmate at Rikers Island, received a settlement of $1,650,000, based on the corrections officers being negligent in supervising Halloway. If you or someone you know suffered serious injuries as a result of being abused or neglected while incarcerated at Rikers Island, Bedford Hills, or any other correctional facility in New York, seeking the assistance of an experienced New York inmate abuse lawyer is critical. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We can guide and support you in navigating the complexities of the system, ensuring that the necessary steps are taken to help make sure that your legal rights are protected.

What Rights Do Prisoners Have?

While incarcerated, individuals retain certain rights protected by law. These rights include access to adequate medical care, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to basic human dignity.

  • Access to Adequate Medical Care. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and the Supreme Court, in cases such as Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976), has affirmed the right of prisoners to receive adequate medical care. In Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court set the precedent for prisoner claims under the Eighth Amendment. The Court ruled that inmates must prove deliberate indifference to serious medical needs to establish a violation.
  • Protection from Cruel and Unusual Punishment. The Eighth Amendment serves as the foundation, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. In correctional contexts, the Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on prison authorities to maintain conditions that do not subject inmates to unnecessary harm or degradation. This protection extends to actions by both prison staff and fellow inmates. Courts play a vital role in interpreting and applying the Eighth Amendment in correctional cases. Landmark cases, such as Estelle v. Gamble (1976) and Hudson v. McMillian (1992), have established legal standards and precedent, affirming that deliberate indifference to inmate safety and well-being constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment. In Hudson v. McMillian 503 U.S. 1 (1992), the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that excessive force against a prisoner can constitute cruel and unusual punishment, even if the inmate doesn't suffer serious injuries.

If you are someone you know has been subjected to abuse while an inmate in a New York jail or prison and suffered a serious injury, contact an experienced New York inmate abuse lawyer. Through a personal injury lawsuit, you may be eligible to receive significant compensation for the injuries you sustained as a result of the abuse.

What Is Prisoner Abuse?

Prisoner abuse involves mistreatment or violation of the rights of individuals in New York prisons. This mistreatment can take different forms including, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and withholding medical treatment. The abuse can be by prison staff or by other inmates.

  • Physical Abuse. Physical abuse against inmates involves actions causing harm, such as excessive force, unwarranted punishment, or neglect leading to injuries. Excessive force includes the unnecessary use of physical power, going beyond what is needed for control. It can involve such behavior as punching, kicking, body slamming, and using weapons. Unwarranted punishment refers to disciplinary measures without just cause, causing physical harm. Neglect leading to injuries occurs when insufficient care results in harm, addressing concerns like inadequate medical attention or safety precautions. In Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2d Cir. 1973), the court established that the use of excessive force by prison officials violates the Eighth Amendment. In Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992), the court held that the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury.
  • Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of inmates involves any non-consensual sexual activity within correctional facilities. This can include unwanted advances, coercion, or any form of sexual contact without clear and voluntary consent. Such acts violate the rights of individuals in custody and are strictly prohibited under the law. A cause of action against the correctional facility as well as staff may arise not only if the abuse was perpetrated by prison staff, but also by other inmates. In Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994), the Supreme Court held that prison officials may be liable for failing to protect inmates from sexual assault by other prisoners if they are deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm.
  • Withholding Medical Treatment. Withholding medical treatment in the context of inmate abuse refers to the deliberate denial or delay of necessary medical care to inmates by correctional staff or authorities. This can include ignoring or dismissing inmates' requests for medical attention, delaying or obstructing access to medical facilities, or providing substandard medical care. When correctional officials withhold medical treatment, they jeopardize the health and well-being of inmates, potentially leading to serious injury, complications, or even death. One notable case that highlights the issue of withholding medical treatment in the context of inmate abuse is Estelle v. Gamble, a landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1976. In this case, the plaintiff sued prison officials for failing to provide adequate medical care for his serious medical condition. The Supreme Court ruled that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court held that prison officials cannot intentionally deny or delay access to medical care for inmates, as it violates their constitutional rights.
  • Neglect and Poor Supervision. New York inmate abuse based on neglect can take many forms. One of the most common forms is when corrections officers fail to properly supervise inmates. This can lead to inmates being victimized by other inmates or to inmates harming themselves. In fact, many inmate suicides may have been prevented if corrections officers and other prison staff properly supervised inmates. For example, after being placed in solitary confinement at New York State’s Fishkill Correctional Center, 21-year-old Ben Van Zandt committed suicide. Van Zandt was a former honor student who struggled with an undiagnosed mental health condition. According to a May 2020 report by the #HALTsolitary Campaign, there were 18 suicides in 2019 alone. When compared to the average for all U.S. prisons, the incidence of suicide in New York prisons is 88% higher.
Pursuing Damages for Injuries

New York prison inmates who have suffered injuries while incarcerated have the right to pursue compensation through civil rights and personal injury lawsuits. These lawsuits allow inmates to seek financial damages for harm caused by the negligence or misconduct of others, including correctional facility staff, the facility itself, other inmates, or third parties. Plaintiffs can sue for compensation in the following categories:

  • Pain and Suffering. This category includes physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by the injury. While quantifying pain and suffering damages can be challenging, courts may consider factors such as the severity of the injury, the duration of the pain, and the impact on the inmate's quality of life.
  • Punitive Damages. In cases involving particularly egregious conduct or intentional wrongdoing, inmates may be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar misconduct in the future. However, punitive damages are not available in all cases and typically require evidence of malicious intent or reckless disregard for the inmate's safety.
  • Wrongful Death. In cases where an inmate dies as a result of injuries sustained while incarcerated, the deceased inmates personal representative may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for damages such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, and loss of companionship and support.

Potential defendants in a personal injury lawsuit filed by an inmate may include correctional officers, prison administrators, medical staff, and other parties responsible for the inmate's safety and well-being. Government agencies or entities that operate the correctional facility may also be named as defendants.

It is important to be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit, as there are deadlines for initiating legal action. In New York, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, including those filed by inmates, is typically three years from the date of the injury. However, there may be exceptions or variations depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Also, note that there are typically special complaint procedures that inmates must exhaust before filing a civil claim in court. An experienced inmate abuse attorney in New York can help you navigate the procedures.

New York Inmate Abuse and Neglect Verdicts and Settlements
  • July 2022. Jury awarded Fishkill Correctional Facility inmate $2.1 million. Chad Stanbro, a prisoner taken to a dental clinic, was described by guards as causing a minor disturbance during his sedation. However, omitted details revealed Stanbro was actually paralyzed during the incident. A guard knelt on his neck, rendering him unable to move. Despite obvious injuries, Stanbro was accused of assault and placed in solitary confinement. In a surprising turn, a federal jury awarded him $2.1 million in damages. This case highlights the discrepancy between official reports and the reality of abuse in correctional facilities. Stanbro's experience sheds light on the inadequate accountability for guards' misconduct and the harsh treatment of inmates who seek justice.
  • November 2020. A judge awarded an inmate $2.4 million after being left paralyzed from being beaten by corrections officers. Roy Harriger, convicted of sexual abuse in 2015, claimed a guard at Attica Correctional Facility beat him with a baton, leaving him paralyzed. Despite extensive investigation, officers denied involvement, and crucial records were missing. Several staff members refused to cooperate. No guard was identified, disciplined, or charged criminally. Harriger sued, revealing discrepancies in testimony and missing paperwork. The judge ruled in Harriger's favor, awarding him $2.4 million. Harriger remains wheelchair-bound, unable to straighten his fingers due to injuries sustained in the attack. This case underscores the challenges inmates face in seeking accountability for abuse in correctional facilities and highlights systemic failures in documenting and addressing such incidents.
  • February 2020. An inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility was awarded $650,000 for injuries suffered after being assaulted by corrections officers. Inmate Jerome Anderson filed a lawsuit against several corrections officers of Green Haven, alleging that he was taken to a part of the prison not monitored by surveillance cameras. When he refused to answer questions related to an accusation of sexual abuse made against a prison official, he was assaulted by multiple corrections officers. Anderson’s hands, toes, and head were injured. The plaintiff also claimed that he suffered emotional distress in the form of insomnia. The jury found that some of the defendant corrections officers did use excessive force against Anderson and awarded him $650,000. $75,000 of the award was for compensatory damages and $575,000 for punitive damages. It is not unusual for the majority of a damage award to be for punitive damages because actions of abuse of inmates by corrections officers is outrageous.
  • August 2019. $655,000 awarded to inmate after a New York Court of Claims found state of New York 100% responsible for prisoner assault. The inmate plaintiff alleged that he was attacked in the bathhouse at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Although he screamed, no one came to help him. As a result of the attack, he suffered multiple lacerations and temporomandibular joints (TMJ) disorder. See Aughtry v. State, # 2019-029-033 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. May 22, 2019).
Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Our commitment to advocating for the rights of prisoners in New York is rooted in the belief that every individual, regardless of their incarceration status, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Our skilled inmate abuse attorneys serving New York remain dedicated to supporting those who have been injured because neglect or abuse in correctional facilities in New York. If you or someone you know has been a victim of prisoner abuse, contact us to explore the available legal options. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, Manhattan, Nassau County, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, and Westchester County.

Client Reviews
When my mom, who is suffering from dementia, faced a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit, I contacted Stephen Bilkis of the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. Not only did he provide a strategy for defending the claim, he also advised me on steps to take to avoid future personal liability. Whether you are the defendant or plaintiff in an injury case, I highly recommend Mr. Bilkis. S.M.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
I had my first encounter with Mr. Stephen Bilkis three years ago over the phone. He and his staff have been nothing but courtesy and professional. Their hard work ended with a large six-figure settlement for my case. I would highly recommend you contact his office. I want to give a special THANK YOU to Ms. Tricia Krapf. She always made me feel like a priority and was always kind and professional over the phone and email. I highly recommend them to anyone in need of legal representation. Celesta