A federal jury awarded a Wisconsin prisoner $295,000 after officials forced him to sleep on a wet, moldy mattress for two months. Reggie Townsend, 29, is serving time for reckless homicide and won the judgment against the New Lisbon Correctional Institution.
Townsend was forced into a 12 X 6 segregation unit and the guards refused to replace the mattress. What is interesting about the verdict is that he did not suffer any direct physical injuries but rather prevailed on the denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.”
Such verdicts are rare since prisons bet on juries being hostile to prisoners who file for damages. These judgments, however, are a vital deterrent since legislators generally show little interest in the conditions for prisoners.
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