Recently, jails in Colorado have been coming under fire for their prison guards’ use of excessive force against inmates. In a number of incidents—many of which were caught on tape—inmates suffered a variety of physical injuries, from bruising and broken bones to asphyxiation and death, at the hands of overzealous guards.
Some of the incidents currently in question include: use of excessive or unwarranted tasing, shoving inmates through doors, body slamming, beating, and forceful grabbing of prisoners by guards. These incidents have been covered recently by The Denver Post, which reveals that the jails have been required to pay anywhere from $24,000 to $2 million in settlement money to inmates’ families.
In addition to the settlements that have been paid, representatives from Colorado jails have vowed to take action against the guilty guards and to work hard to prevent more violent incidents from occurring in the future. As of yet, though, the jails have refused to disclose what specific disciplinary action has been taken. In some past cases, guards were not personally penalized at all.
The Reality and Severity of Prison Assault
Violence from prison guards is certainly not unheard of. In fact, one recent study suggests that guards may be responsible for up to half of the sexual assaults that occur in prisons, and in recent years both inmates and guards themselves have been coming forward to speak out about violence amongst guards.
Unfortunately, these accusations are often overlooked or covered up. Because of prison hierarchy which makes it difficult for inmates to file complaints with unbiased parties, and certain stigmas that inmates carry, it’s difficult for these cases to ever even be heard, let alone acted on.
Further, since these instances occur behind prison walls, a large majority of the surrounding communities are unaware that these clashes are taking place. Citizens tend to trust that prisons are taking care of inmates, doing their jobs fairly and treating inmates with the dignity that they deserve. Because outsiders rarely see what goes on in a jail, it’s all too easy for guards to get away with these things.
Don’t Be Silenced
Too often, instances of prison violence go unreported. Sometimes this is the result of inmates’ unwillingness to file complaints due to fear that the complaint will be ignored or will make matters worse. Even in cases where prisoners are given the option to voice their accusations, many people are too willing to discredit their accounts solely because of cognitive biases. To make matters even more complicated, various legal barriers exist that make it difficult or impossible for inmates to find good legal representation in cases such as these.
This is unfair and unacceptable. Everyone deserves to be heard, especially victims of violence. Not only is it each individual’s basic human right to be heard and to live without fear of abuse, but there are laws in place that are specifically designed to protect the rights of prisoners and guarantee them certain protections so that they will not be assaulted by guards.
All individuals have a right to respect and fair treatment. When injuries are inflicted illegally, those responsible should be held accountable. If you or a family member has been injured as a result of prison violence, you owe it to yourself to speak with a knowledgeable defense lawyer who will listen to you, fight for you, and get you the justice that you deserve.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.