MacDonald Hoague and Bayless has an extensive history of challenging dangerous conditions of confinement that arrestees and prisoners should not endure in a civil society.
MHB lawyers have long recognized that people detained in local jails after being arrested, or in prison because they were convicted of crimes, are at the mercy of jailors who do not always comply with what the U.S. Constitution demands. City and county jails often cut corners when providing health care and safeguards for pre-trial detainees, sometimes with disastrous consequences for people who enter custody sick, suicidal, or otherwise vulnerable. For persons in state and federal prison, avoidable injuries and deaths while in custody occur because of systemic deficiencies and neglectful guards. Sadly, this problem is compounded by the characteristics of mass incarceration in the United States, including underfunded prisons and jails, a disproportionate impact on people of color arrested or convicted of crimes, and a prison population that has ballooned because of untreated mental illness. MHB realizes that it is frighteningly easy for any family to discover that a loved one has entered this system where legal and practical protections are diminished.
Under our constitutional framework, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments protect prisoners and pre-trial detainees, in addition to state and federal statutes. MHB lawyers have never shied away from the prisoner’s social stigma or the additional difficulties the law imposes on prisoners who seek to vindicate their constitutional rights. MHB lawyers have brought successful lawsuits under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, and the Washington Law Against Discrimination, to challenge a variety of conditions of confinement and obtain large judgments or settlements for our clients. To name just a few examples, MHB lawyers have:
- halted the Washington Department of Corrections’ (DOC) use of male guards to search female prisoners at random;
- reached settlements with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in excess of $1,000,000 on behalf of a woman whom guards left to die as she suffered peritonitis and sepsis in her cell, and for $900,000 on behalf of a man whose degenerative eye disease BOP medical providers ignored;
- stopped the practice in Washington and Oregon county jails of denying detainees’ rights to outside mail;
- resolved a major case against Pierce County for the suicide of a pre-trial detainee;
- effectively challenged a county’s use of solitary confinement on juveniles;
- reached a substantial settlement with Yakima County on behalf of a man whose skull was fractured by guards in the county jail;
- successfully brought an equal protection claim to stop a county’s refusal to allow women convicted of certain crimes to be on work release;
- litigated several successful cases under the Public Records Act on behalf of prisoners who face additional barriers to recovering monetary penalties.