OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An inmate who has filed a civil rights complaint against the Oklahoma County Detention Center due to an alleged bed bug infestation is asking for $5 million to build a shelter, drug treatment center and a program to help kids.
Court papers filed July 13th show Jose Toman Fonseca believes his 8th Amendment rights were violated when he was denied life’s necessities; specifically related to cruel and unusual punishments.
In the documents, he claims his food and cell are infested with bed bugs and he hasn’t had access to medical treatment, or has had poor medical care.
Lawyers said beg bugs might be nasty, unsanitary or perhaps even painful, but they likely don’t fit the criterial for violating “cruel and unusual punishment” as described by the 8th Amendment.
“The situation that this man describes, unfortunately, one that is all too common over at the Oklahoma County Jail,” said criminal defense attorney Carter Jennings.
The Oklahoma County Detention Center is currently under fire for numerous health and safety violations.
They are currently facing a $350,000 fine but the facility’s administrators have appealed.
“There are many things that can happen while somebody is incarcerated that, but that don’t necessarily fall into the realm of a civil rights violations,” said attorney and legal expert Ed Blau. “Generally, there has to be some sort of relatively serious injury.”
In the filing, he claimed his cell and food are crawling with bed bugs; a complaint KFOR has heard from several inmates in the past.
But attorneys KFOR spoke with said while conditions may be horrific, Fonseca needs to present more proof.
“Being inconvenienced or being uncomfortable doesn’t really rise to the level of achieving a significant monetary reward,” stated Blau.
Fonseca is seeking a $5 million judgment, but the legal experts said a seven-figure settlement isn’t possible.
“The cap, unfortunately, that is set by the Oklahoma government for claims, is $175,000,” said Jennings.
Guidance in the complaint’s instructions state that “if the evidence shows that you did not fully comply with an available prison grievance process prior to filing this lawsuit, the court may dismiss the unexhausted claim(s) or grant judgment against you.”
However, Jennings said the lawsuit could end up helping future inmates.
“Hopefully this puts people on notice just how bad the conditions over at the jail are and can be right now,” he said. “Citizens of Oklahoma County need to know how their brothers and sisters that are incarcerated are being treated.”