Does the injured bystander-offender have a civil claim

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Assume that community corrections officers use mace to subdue an unruly offender who is in custody awaiting a state probation revocation hearing. The mace drifts into an adjoining area, causing another alleged probation violator to have a serious reaction, including chronic breathing impairment. What federal constitutional issues arise related to injuries suffered by incarcerated offenders due to the actions of community corrections officers? Does the injured bystander-offender have a civil claim against the community corrections officers who used the mace on the unruly offender? Answer these questions, with reference citations to scholarly research sources, and respond to the contributions of your fellow students. Be sure to consider and discuss the legal concept of qualified immunity.

1) There are many levels to the situation that has been presented. To begin with, a community corrections officer has maced an unruly offender. Then some of the spray drifts to another alleged offender who has done nothing wrong at the time. I would say that constitutionally, this would fit under a concern of the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. This amendment assures that punishments are exercised within the limits of a civilized manner (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). However, this action was not being performed against the bystander-offender as a punishment. It was more an unfortunate secondary exposure. Speaking from a civil stand, a tort is considered to be "a breach of a duty that the law imposes on persons who stand in a particular relation to one another" (Beauclair, Faust, Keiser, & Thigpen, 2013).

Being as this breach can come from intentional duties, or from those caused by negligence, it is possible for a probation or parole officer to be held liable for a civil tort, even if their actions were caused by negligence rather than from intentional damages (Beauclair, et. al, 2013). However, the concept of qualified immunity has to be taken into consideration. Qualified immunity is used to balance the need to prevent government officials such as community corrections officers from using their power irresponsibly with the need to protect them if they cause damage while using that power responsibly (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). Thus, while the community correction officer's actions may have led to injury to the bystander-offender, he was at the time using his power responsibly in order to subdue an unruly offender. Thus, his actions are protected from going to trial. However, if that officer did not then ensure that the bystander-offender was given medical attention after receiving those injuries, he would once again be liable due to negligence considering the civil tort status (Cornell University Law School, n.d.).

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2) Inmates have rights under the Eighth Amendment to be guarded against cruel and unusual punishment (Prisoners' Rights, n.d.). In a situation where a probation violator just happened to be next to another probation violator who got maced and ingested the spray, the innocent violator is not receiving punishment, and getting sprayed by a corrections officer by accident is not an Eighth Amendment violation.

Title 42 United States Code 1983 states that every person who causes a violation of rights shall be liable to the party injured (Civil Liabilities, n.d.). This includes all citizens. In it's decision on the case of Monroe v. Pape the Supreme Court ruled that 1983 rules applied to all violations of the Constitution, including violations by judicial officers committed when they are not working in their physical capacity.

The right violated must be a right given by the U.S. Constitution and qualified immunity would apply to this officer because his actions were done in good faith toward the offender who was sprayed and the offender who was injured by the over-spray was not intentionally injured. With the facts available I would not agree that a probation officer should be susceptible to a civil lawsuit, but by law they could be the defendant in a civil lawsuit.

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Reference no: EM131316099

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