Do Prison Employees Qualify For Workers' Compensation?
Thousands of prison inmates are injured while serving their time in correctional facilities. Some of those injuries occur while they are employed as part of a prison work program. One question inmates in these programs commonly have is whether they are covered by workers' compensation insurance if they are hurt on the job. It depends on where the inmate is being housed. Here's more information about this issue.
People doing time in federal prisons and who are injured while participating in work programs can get compensated for those injuries through the Inmate Accident Compensation Act. Through this Act, injured parties and their dependants may recover lost wages, money for medical treatment needed after release, and compensation for impairments they sustain as a result of the accident (e.g. permanent limp).
Like state workers' comp programs, the Inmate Accident Compensation Act is the exclusive remedy for injured working prisoners. While the no-fault nature of the law means inmates will get paid regardless of who or what caused the accident, they are barred from filing lawsuits against the government for the same incident.
However, it should be noted that inmates may still have the option to sue individual prison guards, wardens, the facility itself (if privately owned), and other employees via Bivens actions if the inmate can sufficiently demonstrate there was a Constitutional violation. For instance, it's not unheard of for prison guards to act in a discriminatory manner towards inmates. If that contributed to the inmate's injuries, the person can sue based on a violation of his or her civil rights.
Unfortunately, people housed in state prisons aren't as lucky. If you are injured while performing work for a prison program in a state facility, whether you can receive workers' compensation depends entirely on what state you are in.
For instance, inmate workers in California correctional facilities are eligible for workers' compensation if they get hurt as long as the injury is the direct result of the job, he or she wasn't intoxicated at the time the accident happened, and the injury wasn't intentional or occurred while the person was doing something illegal.
On the other hand, New Jersey completely bars inmate workers from being compensated for on-the-job injuries. The justification the state makes is people who work in prison programs are not considered employees in the traditional sense, since they aren't "hired" or "fired." You would have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the state, employees, and/or correctional facility to obtain compensation for your injuries.
For more information about this issue or help getting workers' compensation benefits from the state or federal government, contact an attorney or firm such as Bishop Dorfman Kroupa & Bishop PC.