Prison is not known for its freedom, but inmates still have a number of rights that are to be respected. This is especially true where equal treatment is concerned. According to 15 plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit against Sand Bernardino County, though, this isn’t their experience behind bars.
The plaintiffs are all gay, bisexual, or transgender, and believe that this status is keeping them from being treated like other inmates. Namely, they say that this status means they are housed in a segregated unit that does not permit equal access to work programs that would decrease their length of incarceration and give them the training they need to land jobs upon release. They also claim it denies them admission to rehabilitation services as well.
Filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the lawsuit seeks to be treated with class-action status. It includes both former and current inmates who spent or are spending time in the alternative lifestyle tank at West Valley Detention Center.
They are being represented by a private firm as well as the American Civil Liberties Union. According to a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department, they have not yet seen the lawsuit, nor would they comment on any pending litigation.
Although the lawsuit is only focusing on a San Bernardino County, the ACLU hopes it will influence change all across California regarding how such inmates get treated.
While separating inmates of an “alternative lifestyle” are routinely separated from the rest of the population to prevent them from becoming victims of assault, it’s done so with the understanding that they will not be denied access to prison services while in custody of the state.
This lawsuit highlights why anyone heading to prison should contact an attorney first to ensure they understand their rights behind bars. If the plaintiffs in this suit are accurate, they may have served a greater amount of time than necessary because they couldn’t work to shorten their terms.