The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution states that when it comes to those imprisoned by the government, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
This amendment is part of the Bill of Rights recognizing the individual rights of all Americans. The final phrase, referring to “cruel and unusual punishments,” is perhaps the most important. It is meant as a check on the government’s ability to physically and psychologically punish people convicted of or charged with a crime.
A complaint from an employee at a Michigan prison has the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigating whether there is a sewage problem putting workers’ and inmates’ health at risk. According to the complaint, sewage at Parnall Correctional Facility routinely backs up, causing a pervasive and awful odor.
If the allegations are true, it appears that inmates’ lives and safety are being disregarded. A Corrections Department spokesman admitted to the Detroit Free Press that inmates were ordered to shovel raw sewage out of a basement last month, and not given biohazard protection because prison officials believed they did not have to, given the possible lack of blood in the sewage.
Meanwhile, the prison is under partial quarantine due to at least four cases of norovirus and 70 more inmates with “flu-like symptoms.” One recently released inmate said he and other inmates regularly dealt with headaches and burning eyes. The father of another inmate said his son has been sick for months.
Everyone, including people serving a prison sentence, has rights. The best way to protect those rights is through an experienced criminal defense attorney.