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State prison reform may lead to increase in wrongful death suits

The state of California made a valiant effort to reduce the population of residents incarcerated in the overcrowded prison system. Experts saw overcrowding as a major factor in the problems faced by the state prison system. Despite the noble effort, the initiative had some unintended side effects, and one of them is the increased potential for a wrongful death to occur in a county jail.

While trying to keep additional offenders out of the state prison system, many defendants who would have formerly been sentenced to time in a state prison are being mixed into the population at county jails. This has unfortunately resulted in inmates known to be violent or to have severe mental health issues being housed with offenders who may have not even been convicted of a crime yet, because they are awaiting trial. There have already been several incidents that ring alarm bells.

One man, only 19 years old, was in county jail awaiting his court date. He was housed with a mentally ill inmate who was harming himself repeatedly, often banging his head against the wall. Shortly after the young man was forced to share a cell with him, the mentally ill man choked him until he was in a coma. Another man, in an unrelated incident, suffered a health episode for many hours and eventually died because he did not receive proper medical attention. The county jails now face the same overcrowding that was faced by the state prison system, so it appears that the problem has not been solved but has merely trickled down to affect incarcerated persons on a local level.

If a California family fears that a member has been the victim of wrongful death, they may feel overwhelmed. Executors of the deceased person's estate may feel helpless when dealing with burial costs and other expenses that accompany such a death. In some cases, an experienced attorney may be able to help the party responsible for the estate collect any monetary justice to which the deceased may be entitled.

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