Thursday, February 17, 2022
Andrea C. Armstrong (Loyola University New Orleans College of Law) has posted Prison Medical Deaths and Qualified Immunity (112 J. Crim. L. And Criminology 79 (2022)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The defense of qualified immunity for claims seeking monetary damages for constitutionally inadequate medical care for people who are incarcerated is misguided. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, medical illness is the leading cause of death of people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the United States. Qualified immunity in these cases limits accountability for carceral actors, thereby limiting incentives for improvements in the delivery of constitutionally adequate medical care. The qualified immunity defense also compounds other existing barriers, such as higher subjective intent standards and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, to asserting legal accountability of prison and jail administrators. In addition, the defense is not appropriate because medical care decisions by carceral actors are fundamentally different than traditional qualified immunity cases. Traditional qualified immunity cases usually involve discretionary decisions that are one-off, emergency, binary choices made by a single actor or unit of actors. In contrast, medical decisions in carceral settings are often serial, ongoing, and usually involve multiple decision makers, sometimes acting beyond their area of expertise.