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Michigan State Prisoner Receives $1,250 for Interference with Visit

Michigan state prisoner Kevin King was awarded $1,250 in punitive damages and $1 in compensatory damages after a federal jury found that a guard had intentionally interfered with a visit with his wife. The court determined that the guard, Tiffany Williams, had violated the civil rights of both King and his wife when Williams threatened him with a disciplinary charge for an alleged violation of the visiting rules, then prevented him from making an immediate complaint to a prison supervisor.

While housed at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility on July 5, 2012, King alleged that Williams had purposely interfered with his and his wife’s First Amendment right of free association. He stated in an amended complaint that his wife complained of having to wait 55 minutes, without justification, before being admitted to the visiting room, and that once the visit commenced they were unable to sit next to each other and engage in even the minimal physical contact permitted under Michigan Department of Corrections visitation directives.

According to those directives, “Physical contact between prisoners and visitors is prohibited except for one kiss and one embrace between a prisoner and each of his/her visitors at the beginning and end of each visit and when a picture is being taken. In addition, a prisoner and his/her visitor are permitted to have their arms around the shoulders of one another and may hold hands.”

The case went to a jury trial in August 2015 after the district court denied the state’s motion to dismiss, ruling, “Plaintiff has alleged the violation of a clearly established, constitutional right such that dismissal based on qualified immunity is not warranted.” Following the $1,251 jury verdict, the district court taxed costs against the defendants; on September 16, 2015 the court entered an amended judgment, inclusive of costs and attorney fees, totaling $4,127.30. See: King v. Williams, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:12-cv-15116-MFL-RSW.

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Related legal case

King v. Williams