Inmates at Sacramento County Jail File Claims Alleging Health Damages From Second-Hand Smoke
Twenty-nine current and former inmates at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center over the last few months have filed individual claims alleging that Sacramento County owes them a total of $1.9 million in compensation for health damages incurred from breathing second-hand smoke while in the jail, the Sacramento Bee reports. The inmates claim that the smoke caused a range of damage to their lungs, throats, brains and reproductive organs. The county Sheriff's Department said inmates were never allowed to smoke inside the buildings, but some inmates said that guards rarely enforced the rule and that smoking was a privilege given to well-behaved, minimum-security inmates. The county Sheriff's Department on Friday banned cigarettes from the entire facility. Jail officials said the smoking ban was prompted more by health concerns than the inmates' claims.
According to county Sheriff's Department officials, the claims, detailing damage that took place as early as July 2003, could result in a lawsuit, but "inmates may have difficulty proving that their alleged illnesses resulted from the conditions behind bars," the Bee reports. Aadne Benestad, the county's risk manager who will decide whether to approve payment for the inmates' claims, said fewer than half of claims filed against the county each year result in a cash award. Pompeii Thompson, a former inmate who is seeking $150,000 for a case of "unnecessary pneumonia" that was allegedly caused by second-hand smoke, said he went through a "near-death experience" recovering from the disease in jail. "It would be OK if people were smoking outside, but the officers allowed them to smoke in there in the dorms," Thompson said, adding that he thought the prison's new smoking ban was solely the result of the claims (Jahn, Sacramento Bee, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.