Our Michigan police misconduct and jail rights lawyers represent the families of prisoners and inmates that have died while in a jail or prison.  A large number of these deaths were preventable.

Many of these deaths are accidental or the result of suicide.  Other deaths are due to assaults, medical errors, and poisonings.

The governmental unit responsible for the management of the jail or prison can be held legally accountable for the unexpected and wrongful death of an incarcerated person.

Many prisons are managed by private companies through government contracts.  Those companies can be sued for the wrongful death of an inmate through a personal injury lawsuit.

Statistics on Prison Deaths

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of inmate suicides is on a disturbing upward trend.  The statistics show that:

The bar chart below shows the number of deaths in Michigan prisons from 2001-2014.

Michigan prison death statistics bar chart - Prisoner death lawyer

Year Deaths
2001 114
2005 140
2006 138
2007 117
2008 99
2009 148
2010 93
2011 119
2012 124
2013 124
2014 121

List of Prisons in Michigan

In addition to city and county jails, there are a number of prisons in Michigan.   These include:

  • Alger Correctional Facility
  • Central Michigan Correctional Facility
  • Chippewa Correctional Facility
  • Detroit Detention Center
  • Ionia Correctional Facility
  • Macomb Correctional Facility
  • Marquette Branch Prison
  • Muskegon Correctional Facility
  • Saginaw Correctional Facility
  • Thumb Correctional Facility
  • Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility

Causes of Unnatural Prison and Jail Deaths

Deaths in prisons and jails are classified into two categories.  The first category is a natural death.   This is when a prisoner has died of a natural cause, like a disease or medical condition.

The other category is an unnatural death.  These are deaths that a coroner has determined to be caused by homicide, suicide or accidental cause.  Accidental deaths include drug overdoses and withdrawals, medical negligence, and other types of preventable deaths.

Homicides include beatings by other prisoners and assaults by prison and jail guards.  Some deaths are caused by suffocation or unlawful chokeholds, which results in positional asphyxia.

Inmate Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

People in Michigan jails and prisons are entitled to appropriate medical care during the period of incarceration.  Many prisoners have pre-existing medical conditions at the time of their imprisonment while others because ill or injured during their prison sentence.

Under circumstance, the governmental agency or private company responsible for the facility are required to provide necessary medical treatment.  Some private companies, like Corizon Health, have been sued many times throughout the United States in cases alleging sub-standard medical care.  The private health care company paid a $10 million settlement for an inmate death.

The injured prisoner or family can file a medical malpractice lawsuit when improper or no care is provided.

These cases are based upon violations of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and other constitutional law claims.  Damages and compensation are awarded to victims and families.

Common Reasons for Inmate Suicides in Jail

There are often specific warnings or warning signs that should cause correctional facilities to take required action to prevent a suicide death of an inmate.

Many first time inmates experience a “shock of confinement” with fears and depression greater than someone who has previously been through the jail system.

As a Michigan lawyer could explain, jail and prison suicide deaths occur for a number of reasons, but the most common include:

  • Failure to protect, identify, and treat mentally ill prisoners
  • Understaffed and untrained prison and jail personnel
  • Failure to monitor inmates at high risk for suicide
  • Physical assaults while imprisoned by other inmates
  • Sexual assault while in custody by other inmates
  • Taunting and intimidation by other prisoners
  • Medication errors or refusal to provide necessary medications
  • Failure or refusal to get psychiatric exams performed on high risk inmates
  • Failure to consult with an inmates treating doctors or family members

Jail Suicide Statistics in the United States

The line chart below identifies the number of deaths from suicides in federal prisons from 2001-2014. From 2004-2013, there was an overall downward trend in deaths, but in 2014, there was a 30 percent increase in suicides. Since 2001, there has been a 48% increase in federal prison suicides.

Jail suicide statistics graph by inmate death lawyer

Year Deaths
2001 168
2005 213
2006 219
2007 215
2008 197
2009 202
2010 215
2011 185
2012 205
2013 192
2014 249

Filing a Prisoner Death Lawsuit

Lawsuits can be filed against a governmental entity for the suicide death of a prisoner or inmate with the help of a Michigan attorney.  Many correctional facilities are owned or managed by private companies under contract with the government and those companies can also be sued for the death of a prisoner in their facility.

The legal basis for these lawsuits is violations of both federal and state constitutional rights.  Specifically, lawsuits allege violation of the Eight Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The cases seek a civil judgment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Lawsuits allege that the government deprived the rights of the prisoner either maliciously or by acting with reckless disregard for whether an inmate’s rights were violated by prison officials.  This reckless indifference to the health and safety of the prisoner resulted in the death of the inmate.  Other allegations regarding civil rights violations are included in the lawsuits on behalf of the prisoner.

The surviving family members or an inmate who dies in prison or jail may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the government and prison officials.

Typically, a family member will be appointed by the probate court to be the representative of the estate and to assist the civil attorney in the handling of the case.  Other family members still have input in deciding whether to settle the case and how much each family member receives from the settlement.

What Are the Types of Compensation Available?

Inmate and prisoner wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the family members for the loss of the loved one.

Compensation and damages in these cases can include:

  • The loss of society and companionship of the loved one
  • The pain and suffering prior to the death
  • The loss of financial support, earnings, and economic benefits
  • The loss of parenting and other household services
  • Funeral and burial expenses

In some situations, there can be punitive and other significant damages awarded by the jury or judge deciding the award.  Many cases also receive an award of attorney’s fees for the lawsuit.

Examples of Jail and Prison Death Settlements

Every inmate death case is completely different.  The  determination of a settlement or jury verdict depends on the facts of a specific case, as well as the skill of the attorney.

Listed below are some examples of some settlements:

  • $10,000,000 settlement for an inmate death resulting from medical malpractice
  • $5,750,000 settlement for the death of a mentally ill inmate
  • $5,000,000 settlement for the death of a jail detainee
  • $4,000,000 settlement for the death of an inmate with mental health problems
  • $2,300,000 settlement for the drug overdose death of a jail detainee
  • $1,600,000 settlement for the suicide death of a jail inmate not properly supervised
  • $1,000,000 settlement for a jail suicide wrongful death lawsuit

Contact Our Prisoner Wrongful Death Lawyers

Our experienced attorneys are here to help you and your family after a tragedy.

Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation to tell us your story. 

If you have a case, we will start on it immediately.

It costs absolutely to get started. If your case is unsuccessful for any reason, you owe us nothing.

- Jennifer C.
Awards and Accolades
Our No Fee Promise No Legal Fees Until You Settle or Win
Client Review
Title: Prison Death and Suicide
Free Consultation Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. – Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers 29000 Inkster Road Suite 150 Southfield MI 48034 (800) 606-1717

Client Description: I would like to thank everyone at Buckfire & Buckfire for their help with my case. It was a long road, but we finally reached the end. I really want to thank Dondi for all of his help with my case. If I ever need another lawyer, I will come back to you guys.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars