Farmer V Brennan – Term Paper

Facts of the case

The petitioner who is transgender was being confined together with other male inmates after being transferred to a prison in Indiana. Sometimes she was limited to the general population and at other times segregated. As a result of being transferred to the second prison, the petitioner alleged that she was beaten, raped and she also transmitted HIV. The petitioner filed suits claiming for damages and also prayed for an injunction restraining her confinement in any penitentiary. The petitioner also alleged that the prison had proceeded with “deliberate indifference” considering that the jail had a long history of inmate violence and the claimant was uniquely vulnerable because of her sexual orientation


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The main issue for determination by the court was whether prison officers had the duty to protect the inmates from internal attacks among themselves. The petitioner submitted that failure by the jail officials to protect her from the violent attacks amounted to a violation of the Eight Amendment of the Constitution (Caselli, 2013).

Holding of the Court

The court ruled that prison officers had the duty to protect inmates from harming each other and the legal threshold is that officers who are ‘deliberately indifferent’ are culpable under the law.; An officer is guilty under the Eighth Amendment if he knows that the inmate is under serious threat and fails to take reasonable care to protect the detainee. The court ruled that Farmer was entitled to damages notwithstanding whether the prison officials knew of the imminent risk against Farmer. The court reasoned that the inhuman conditions at the jail amounted to a violation of the Eight Amendment ( Murphy, 2014).

I agree with the court’s decision that freedom from cruel treatment is a fundamental human right and it cannot be limited. The case has a bearing today especially to the understanding of gay and transgender people, and it has created space for debate of sexual offences in prison.


Caselli, L. (2013). Sane Solutions to the Crazy Lack of Mental Health Care within Prisons. Mental Health L. & Pol’y J., 2, 43.

Murphy, J. G. (2014). ;In the Penal Colony; and Why I Am Now Reluctant to Teach Criminal Law. Criminal Justice Ethics, 33(2), 72-82.