The Fourteenth Amendment provides pretrial detainees with the right to be protected from attack by other inmates while they are incarcerated, but before they have been convicted of a crime. Indeed, “prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners” because corrections officers have “stripped [the inmates] of virtually every means of self-protection and foreclosed their access to outside aid.” Castro v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1067 (9th Cir. 1026), cert. denied sub nom. Los Angeles Cty., Cal. v. Castro, 137 S. ct. 831 (2017) (citation omitted).
To prove that a correctional officer deprived a person of this right, the person must prove the following elements:
For example, if a corrections officer decided to house an inmate whom he knew to have a history of in-cell attacks with another inmate, and an attack happened resulting in injury or death, the officer may be liable for failure to protect the harmed inmate.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s due-process clause guarantees constitutionally adequate medical and mental-health care to pretrial detainees awaiting their criminal trials.
A successful section 1983 Fourteenth Amendment claim based on a theory of objective deliberate indifference must make the same four factual showings to prove a failure-to-protect claim:
Such claims are fact-intensive, requiring investigation into what each individual jail employee did or failed to do and into the jail’s policies, procedures, and customs.
For example, jails recognize their duty to prevent suicide in jails by housing suicidal detainees in “safety cells” and dress them in “safety smocks” which deprive a suicidal person of the means (bedding, clothing) to hang themselves with. A correctional officer’s decision to house a known suicidal person in a cell with access to bedding and other things that the suicidal detainee used to commit suicide might make the correctional officer liable. The municipality running the jail—such as a county—and the corporation to which it contracts for the provision of mental-health care may also be liable if a custom, policy, or procedure (or lack thereof) caused the person’s suicide.
Where a pretrial detainee died due to a use of force or conditions of confinement, certain qualified survivors—known in California law as “successors-in-interest”—may also bring § 1983 “survival” claims to vindicate their deceased loved one’s constitutional rights to be free of excessive force.