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Inmate doing roadside work on California highway killed

Last week a 23-year-old inmate from Calipatria State Prison on the southeast outskirts of San Diego was killed while doing highway clean-up along Interstate 8. The inmate's name has not been released, as officials first want to notify his family.

The man was killed when an oncoming vehicle drifted into the right shoulder and struck the man and one of his co-workers, a 45-year-old, who was taken to the hospital but is expected to survive. The driver himself overturned in the center divider of the highway and was rushed to the UCSD Medical Center with critical injuries. The inmate was pronounced dead at the scene of the car accident.

Police have not determined what caused the driver to lose control of his vehicle, but they noted that they took all the proper precautions to ensure these inmates were protected while they did their highway cleanup work. They said the precautions taken with inmates are the same as with paid California Transportation Department workers, and include orange road crew vests, signs and cones advising motorists of upcoming road work and a vehicle on site to protect the inmates.

Whether or not these men were inmates, they still have important civil liberties and the right to enforce them. Depending on the results of the police investigation, if the driver of the vehicle was negligent, such as driving while distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the men or their surviving families could be entitled to damages for wrongful death and pain and suffering. In addition, the prison system may need to reassess how it conducts highway clean-ups using inmates, as they could be also be liable for damages if they failed to provide these men with adequate safety during their dangerous work.

Source: Imperial Valley Press, "Inmate dies, two injured in highway wreck", by Chelcey Adami, Aug. 18, 2012

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