June 22, 2015

The ACLU of Wisconsin and ACLU National Prison Project (NPP) welcome the Supreme Court’s clarification that a jail detainee who has not been convicted of a crime is entitled to the same level of protection against excessive use of force by jail guards as a person on the street is entitled to protection against excessive force by police officers.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin is pleased with this decision.  It is our firm belief that detainees in jail deserve the same standard of excessive force as a person on the street would have when it comes to contact with police officers,” said Larry Dupuis, ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director.  “The ACLU agrees that the Constitution protects pretrial detainees from the government’s use of objectively unreasonable force, regardless of whether the perpetrator intended to deprive the victim of his or her rights or was recklessly indifferent to such a deprivation.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin and NPP submitted an amicus brief in the Kingsley v. Hendrickson case to highlight two important facts that put the legal issue in context. First, many pretrial detainees are in jail simply because they are poor, and those pretrial detainees are disproportionately people of color. Second, there is a severe, under-reported, and still largely unresolved problem of excessive force in our nation’s jails.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has litigated conditions of confinement in county jails in Wisconsin, including an ongoing class action involving the Milwaukee County Jail.  This case is of significant interest to the ACLU in light of its potential consequences for the ability of pretrial detainees to protect themselves from the objectively unreasonable abuse and violence that pervades city and county jails across the Nation.

The amicus brief can be found here:

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.