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$295,001 Awarded to Wisconsin Prisoner for Wet Mattress

In the United States District Court, Western District of Wisconsin at Madison, on September 17, 2008, a jury returned for plaintiff, Wisconsin state prisoner Reggie Townsend on an 8th amendment civil rights case that was previously granted summary judgment for the defense, but reversed on appeal, awarding Townsend $295,001 in damages. Townsend had been convicted of a “stray bullet” murder of an eleven year-old girl while in commission of an unrelated street shootout.

Townsend was at New Lisbon (WI) Correctional Institution when a riot broke out on November 14, 2004. He was placed in segregation where the alleged 8th amendment violation took place. His two-man cell in segregation was a “wet cell” where all the living facilities, including beds, toilet, sink and shower were in the same 6’x12’ cell. Consequential of his living conditions and the issue under complaint, his mattress was constantly wet for 63 days.

The jury awarded nominal compensatory damages of $1 and punitive damages of $295,000. See: Townsend v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corr., U.S.D.C. (W.D. Wis.), 17 Sep. 2008, Case No: 3:05-204.

Additional source: 4 Fed. JVR 10

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Related legal case

Townsend v. Wisconsin Dept. of Corr.