Reporter: Tom Ramstack
The Supreme Court this week agreed to take on a case that will determine the liability of employees of companies that run state and federal prisons.
It also could end decades of government contracting to private companies that run prisons.
The case involves a lawsuit by a prison inmate against guards he says abused him and violated his constitutional rights.
Normally, prison guards are protected from liability by their status as government employees.
Sovereign immunity provisions in the Constitution mean the government cannot be sued when its agents or employees are carrying out their official duties.
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether the same immunity should be granted to employees of government contractors.
The employees – in this case prison guards – work for Geo Group Inc., one of the largest prison companies in the United States.
Richard Lee Pollard, who was convicted on drug and weapons charges, was an inmate at a federal prison in Taft, Calif. in 2001 when he broke both elbows by falling over a cart in a hallway.
He says in court filings that he was forced to wear a “black box” while being taken to an orthopedist. The device pushes an inmate’s arms together and holds his hands down.