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Jail Liable for Rape of Women Prisoners; Short Duration of Bad Conditions Okay

The two female plaintiffs were sexually assaulted by a jailer while serving 48-hour sentences for minor offenses. The jailer was subsequently fired and pled guilty to criminal charges as to one plaintiff.

At 1307 n. 5:
Deliberate indifference ... is defined differently for Eighth Amendment and municipal liability purposes. In the prison conditions context, deliberate indifference is a subjective standard requiring actual knowledge of a risk by the official. In the municipal liability context, deliberate indifference is an objective standard which is satisfied if the risk is so obvious that the official should have known of it.

There is no evidence of inadequate training sufficient to support municipal liability. There was no previous pattern of violations to put the County on notice that its training was deficient, and the jailer had completed a state certified basic peace officer training and correction officer training. At 1308: "Specific or extensive training hardly seems necessary for a jailer to know that sexually assaulting inmates is inappropriate behavior."

Under Board of County Commissioners v. Brown, an arrest for underage possession of alcohol at age 17 and several speeding tickets did not establish deliberate indifference on the part of the municipality in hiring the jailer.

The county cannot be held liable for an "official defacto policy" of permitting a single jailer to be on duty when the other jailer is sick or on vacation, or for failing to notify inmates of their right to be free from sexual assault, or for failing to provide formal avenues of complaint and staff disciplinary procedures. There is no history of prior incidents that would put the County on notice that any of these circumstances would lead to sexual assault.

At 1310: "... [W]e have expressly acknowleded that an 'inmate has a constitutional right to be secure in her bodily integrity and free from attack by prison guards.'" However, defendants were not deliberately indifferent; the existence of a policy calling for two jailers on duty does not mean that defendants know that having only one jailer on duty establishes an obvious risk of sexual assault.

Verbal harassment is only actionable "in combination" with assault (1310 n. 11).
Allegations of a filthy cell, inadequate lighting and ventilation, lack of enclosures around shower and toilet, unappetizing food, and no access to recreational facilities do not support an Eighth Amendment claim because the plaintiffs were subjected to them for only 48 hours.

Plaintiffs' claim of denial of equal protection based on their placement in solitary confinement, sexual harassment and assault, and denial of access to educational and recreational facilities is rejected in the absence of any information about how male prisoners serving 48-hour sentences are treated. At 1313 n. 17: Since the genders must be separated and women prisoners are generally there for only brief periods of time, there is a legitimate and rational reason to keep the women in solitary confinement. See: Barney v. Pulsipher, 143 F.3d 1299 (10th Cir. 1998).

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Related legal case

Barney v. Pulsipher