Prison Assaults

About Jail and Prison Assaults

Jails house individuals who have been charged with crimes and are awaiting trial while prisons house individuals who have been convicted of crimes and are serving sentences. The United States Constitution, federal statutes, local laws, and national industry standards require that both jail and prison officials safeguard individuals in their custody. This means, among other things, that correctional officials must confiscate contraband weapons, separate nonviolent detainees from predatory inmates, monitor and supervise inmates, and protect against potential suicides. When correctional authorities are indifferent to the health and safety of persons in their custody, they can be held liable for related injuries and deaths.

With few exceptions, most prison assault victims are required to serve timely written notice on the mayor before bringing negligence lawsuits against District of Columbia prison officials. If assault victims miss applicable deadlines or fail to include certain details in written notice letters, their lawsuits will likely be dismissed. Thus, seriously injured prison assault victims should promptly secure the assistance of an experienced counsel such as Washington, D.C. prison assault attorney Douglas Sparks.

Experience and Track Record

Mr. Sparks has a wealth of experience litigating prison assault cases and dealing with troubled correctional facilities. He served on the Board of Directors for the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, chaired its Legal Affairs Committee, and testified at D.C. City Council jail oversight hearings. He and his clients pushed city officials to increase cellblock staffing, install closed circuit security cameras in cellblocks, replace outdated classification and housing policies, improve correctional officer training, and reduce overcrowding at the D.C. jail.

Mr. Sparks has successfully handled hundreds of prison assault and wrongful death claims. He won the largest reported jury award for a D.C. prison stabbing death, obtained the largest reported settlement for a D.C. jail stabbing death, and prevailed on many more high profile cases. Mr. Sparks and his prison assault cases have been covered extensively in the news.

Representative Cases Handled by Douglas Sparks
  • A violent gang member awaiting trial on multiple homicides charges murdered a non-violent pretrial detainee in a D.C. jail cellblock gym. At least three officers were required to be on duty in the cellblock, but only two were there when the murder occurred. Neither officer saw or heard anything until the blood covered stabbing victim stumbled from the gym and collapsed. The Washington City Paper wrote extensively about the “historic settlement” Washington, D.C. prison assault lawyer Douglas Sparks obtained for the murder victim’s family: “For more than four years, the case was inextricably linked with reform of the D.C. Jail . . . from security, staffing, and population limits to the naming of a reform-minded Director. . . . The lawyers didn’t back down, and the city offered the largest settlement in its history . . .” You can read more news about this case here and the client’s review here.

  • A group of guards sprayed chemical agents on numerous prisoners - all locked in single cells - because the inmates would not strip naked and spread their “butt cheeks.” The guards then stormed into cells, shackled prisoners, and viciously beat them. Mr. Sparks filed a federal lawsuit for twelve of the abused prisoners. He obtained hundreds of documents reflecting the supervising cellblock officer’s lengthy history of using excessive force at the jail; he obtained court records showing that the officer had been convicted of threatening to kill his girlfriend; and he demonstrated that correctional officials failed to preserve key evidence, including cellblock surveillance video of the incidents. Confronted with this evidence, the city settled all twelve claims. You can read news coverage of this case here.

  • A man was fatally stabbed in his dormitory at a Lorton prison. At the time, only two correctional officers, rather than the three required, were on duty. The man had two young daughters, and his family retained Mr. Sparks to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the District of Columbia. On the day of trial, the city offered $60,000 to settle the case, which Mr. Sparks rejected. A D.C. Superior Court jury subsequently found the city liable and awarded his children $850,000. Several media outlets reported that the jury’s verdict represented the largest such award in D.C. for a prison stabbing death. You can read news coverage of this case here.

If you have been stabbed or severely injured in a prison attack, you should call Washington, D.C. prison assault attorney Douglas Sparks at (202) 797-8200, fill out his online case inquiry form, or email him at dsparks@sparkslaw.net.