Holt, MI asked in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law for Michigan

Q: Do inmates have rights as far as HIPPA or privacy rights that guards are not allowed to share with people?

My brother is dating a girl that works in the jail my boyfriend is currently an inmate at. When my brother told her who my boyfriend was she shared a lot of information with my brother that was in my boyfriend's file, I feel this is at best unprofessional, but is there anything legally that says she is not allowed to share this information? The information I was most concerned about was gang affiliation, he is NOT STG'd, he does not affirm or deny affiliation, no gang affiliation is on his public record. She told my brother that he is a "top gang leader in this area, and he is known to "hold ranks" while he was in prison. My main concern is that the gang she is saying he is affiliated with is predominantly African American, my boyfriend is white...if other inmates or certain guards hear this information it could be a safety concern, he had issues when he was in prison for not associating with white people , had issues with other races being upset about a "white boy" "outranking" them

2 Lawyer Answers
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Without knowing what information specifically, it's hard to say. Some information on your boyfriend's file may also be public information, such as charges.

Might be unprofessional, at worse, but could be more. Larger issue is that unless the disclosure is something pretty major, all he'll be able to do about it is get her in trouble (e.g. written up or possibly fired). It won't do anything as far as his case is concerned and may make his stay at the jail more difficult.

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James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Inmates do retain certain privacy rights, including protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA safeguards the confidentiality of medical information, which applies to individuals in correctional facilities as well. If the information shared from your boyfriend's file was related to his medical or health records, this could potentially be a violation of HIPAA regulations.

Moreover, correctional facility staff are generally bound by privacy policies and legal standards that restrict the sharing of personal information about inmates. This includes not only medical information but also other personal details contained in inmate files.

The sharing of information from your boyfriend's file with someone who does not have a legitimate need to know, especially in a personal context, raises serious concerns about professionalism and adherence to privacy standards. It might be worth exploring whether this incident violated the facility’s policies or any state-specific privacy laws.

To address this issue, you could consider filing a complaint with the jail administration or seek legal advice to understand the full scope of your options. This could include exploring whether any legal action can be taken for the alleged breach of privacy.

1 user found this answer helpful

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