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  • Writer's pictureAdam Breeden

Nevada Inmate Firefighters Pursue Civil Rights Lawsuit

A recent civil rights lawsuit alleges that inmates participating in a Department of Corrections program to work as firefighters were injured due to unsafe protective equipment and other factors. The lawsuit, Leavitt v. Nevada has been filed in the Eighth Judicial District of Nevada (Clark County) case # A-23-867730-C and is pending before Hon. Danielle Chio. The suit alleges that on April 20th, 2021, a team of female inmates trained as firefighters under a state program for incarcerated persons were led from Jean Conservation Camp to the outskirts of Laughlin for “clean” firefighting duties after a large fire that had swept through the area. The inmates had to address hot embers and other areas of concern.

Within two hours of their efforts, the Plaintiffs claim that the ground began to burn their feet and melt their boots. After reporting this to their supervisors, with one Plaintiff showing their supervisor their boot which had melted from the heat, they were told to continue their work. Later that day the Plaintiffs allege they could barely walk due to burns to their feet.

The lawsuit alleges that the Plaintiffs suffered severe burns and were not given medical care until the day after the incident, when they were taken to UMC and debridement procedures to remove dead skin from the firefighters’ feet were done without anesthesia. A later investigation by the Nevada Inspector General’s Office found that the women had been poorly trained on firefighting with none of the women but one having any field experience. Further, the State’s own investigation found the women had been provided with insufficient protective gear/boots for their work.

The case was filed by the Nevada ACLU for the inmates. The case asserts violations of the Federal Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment for inmates. Other State constitutional violations and tort claims are also asserted. No trial date is set.

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