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Litigation Views Among Jail Staff: An Exploratory and Descriptive Study

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2003 Pages: 70-87
Eric G. Lambert; Daniel E. Hall; Lois Ventura
Date Published
18 pages
This article discusses jail staff attitudes, experiences, and perceptions about civil liability.
The risk, and fear, of jail employees being sued for the performance of their duties may be greater than among many other professions. The damages and negative effects of a civil lawsuit are greater at a local level than they are for a large State correctional agency. Concern for job-related civil liability can have both positive and negative consequences. The questions examined in this study explored how many jail staff had been sued in the performance of their duties, whether they knew of other jail staff that had been sued, and how the threat of civil liability impacted the performance of their duties. Also examined were what jail staff thought about civil liability for public safety officers and agencies, and whether jail staff perceived civil lawsuits to be effective in stopping work behaviors that violate the rights of citizens or harm individuals. The data were extracted from a larger study of public safety personnel and their attitudes toward and knowledge of civil liability issues. The staff at a county jail in Florida was surveyed in February 2001. The results show discrepancies between the numbers of jail employees that had actually been sued and those that claimed to have knowledge of other employees that had been sued. Jail supervisors are more likely to be sued than jail officers. Jail officers may have some level of immunity to litigation in that most decisions in difficult and dangerous situations are made by and are therefore the responsibility of jail command staff. Jail staff generally viewed civil liability as an effective method for deterring work-related behavior that violates the rights of citizens. Most jail staff did not think about civil liability when performing their duties, particularly during emergencies. The vast majority of jail staff did not believe that civil lawsuits hinder their job performance. Most jail employees are in support of civil liability for themselves and other public safety officers. Jail employees seemed to think that civil lawsuits deter wrongful work behavior among jail staff. 2 tables, 64 references