Prevent Litigation with Better Classification

COMPAS Classification   •   An equivant product

Inmates are naturally litigious. Jailhouse lawsuits are frivolous. There’s nothing we can do to prevent them.

It’s easy to fall into a defeatist mindset around inmate litigation. Even the most dedicated justice professionals can become jaded over time, and for good reason. Some inmates are litigious. Some lawsuits are frivolous. Yet many issues spring from a legitimate complaint that can be easily addressed by your agency before spiraling into lawsuit status.

Our research shows that one of the primary ways jails can minimize inmate complaints (and lawsuits!) is by improving their system of classification used for housing, programming, and other jail safety decisions. This might sound like a stretch, but stick with us here.

When inmates of different risk levels are commingled, when disciplinary segregation falls short, when medical and mental health concerns are unidentified: These are the moments when your jail is most at risk for a harmful incident. These are also the moments that make you most vulnerable to litigation focused on inmate safety, unfair or inequitable processing decisions, overcrowded conditions, and parity concerns. Effective classification can help you eliminate or minimize the effects of all of these common lawsuit triggers.

Even in moments where classification seems impossible, such as a crowded situation where you simply don’t have the beds, relying on a rigorous classification instrument to help you appropriately commingle populations can mean the difference between a quiet night and a lawsuit-inducing incident.

That’s why it’s critical that classification is embedded in your agency’s processes in a way that mitigates the chance for error and provides a built-in defense for decisions downstream.

Here’s how to get started reducing inmate litigation immediately:

  • Get an inmate classification system in place. We can help you set up or expand your classification practices using the COMPAS Classification Instrument.
  • Train and inspire your team. Make sure everyone knows not just how to use COMPAS to assess inmate housing, programming, and safety needs, but also why using COMPAS is so important. Inspire your team to be problem-solvers and change agents, not just rules enforcers.
  • Clarify your policies. Create or update your written policy and procedure documents, and ensure you have an up-to-date and defendable compliance manual in place.
  • Handle complaints quickly and fairly. Inmates must exhaust all administrative channels prior to filing a lawsuit, according to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996. The more accessible and equitable you can make this process, the fewer inmates will seek additional legal recourse.

Many jail administrators start with the last step, improving their processes for dealing with complaints, as they work to minimize inmate litigation. This is an admirable first step, and it’s important work. But, it’s not the only work that needs to be done. Heading off problems and complaints before they happen is a critical part of addressing litigation issues, and the key to prevention is effective classification.

There IS something you can do to prevent lawsuits. Contact us today to start building or enhancing your classification program, and reduce complaints that lead to litigation.