Failure to protect.


Alfrey v. U.s. 276 F.3d 557 (9th Cir. 2002). The personal representative of a federal prisoner who was killed by his cellmate brought Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens actions against the government and corrections officials. The district court dismissed the Bivens claim and granted summary judgment for the defendants based on the discretionary-function exception to FTCA. The appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The appeals court held that the plaintiff failed to state a Bivens claim and that the discretionary-function exception barred an FTCA claim based on the officers' response to the report of the ceilmate's threat. But the appeals court found that federal correctional officers had a non-discretionary duty to perform a "Central Inmate Monitoring" evaluation of the prisoner, who was to be held at a federal facility pending trial on a federal charge, before assigning the inmate to share a cell with a federal prisoner, precluding summary judgment on the FTCA claim. (Sherida n Federal Correctional Facility, Oregon)

U.S. District Court


Benner v. McAdory, 165 F. Supp. 2d 773 (N.D. Ill. 2001). A state prison inmate brought a [sections] 1983 action against corrections officials and officers, alleging they were deliberately indifferent to his safety and permitted a fellow inmate to assault him. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court held that the superintendent's failure to move the inmate out of a unit that housed a member of a gang that the inmate had identified as wanting to kill him, did not amount to deliberate indifference and was, at most, negligence. The court found that the fact that the inmate had chosen to approach the fellow inmate's cell precluded recovery because the proximate cause of the inmate's assault was the inmate's own actions. The inmate was scalded with hot water when he approached the fellow inmate's cell, without an escort, to retrieve his legal papers. (Stateville Correctional Facility, Joust, Illinois)

U.S. Appeals Court


Boncher ex rel. Boncher v. Brown County 272 F.3d 484 (7th Cir. 2001). The estate of a prisoner who had committed suicide brought a [section] 1983 action against jail officials alleging deliberate indifference to the risk of the prisoner's suicide. The district court granted summary judgment for the jail officials and the appeals court affirmed. The appeals court held that evidence was insufficient that jail officials were deliberately indifferent, even though intake officers had little training and relied on a checklist that was deficient in several areas. The court noted that the officers were making a judgment that was not likely to be assisted by special training and that the jail was in compliance with the state's minimum standards for suicide prevention. The prisoner had been arrested after a domestic altercation, and had a long history of alcoholism and had attempted suicide at least three times, but this history was not known to the arresting officers or the personnel of the jail. The prisoner was joki ng with officers during his admission to the jail and the officers thought him to be a "happy drunk" He was placed in a regular cell instead of the jail's suicide-watch cell, and he died within 45 minutes by hanging himself with a bedsheet. The appeals court also held that the evidence offered by an expert witness was "useless" and should have been excluded. The criminologist had testified that the rate of suicide in the jail (five suicides in the preceding five years) was unusually high. (Brown County Jail, Wisconsin)

U.S. District Court


Bowens v. City of Atmore. 171 F.Supp.2d 1244 (S.D.Ala. 2001). Survivors of a prisoner who committed suicide filed a [section] 1983 action alleging a conspiracy to violate the prisoner's constitutional rights, The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The court found that a police dispatcher could not be held liable to the survivors, even if the dispatcher knew of the victim's alleged suicide...

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