Prisoner Prevails in Toilet Lawsuit

June 30th, 2009 · Legal news · 0 comments

It appears that prisons across Korea had better start redesigning prisoners’ toilets or they can expect to be paying out the… ahem.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the use by correctional facilities of open toilets for prisoners leads to emotional damages including humiliation and the state must pay compensation.

But it was also decided that no compensation need be paid for the denial of outdoors exercise as a punishment.

The Court announced on the 28th its decision regarding the lawsuit filed against the state by 26-year old Mr. Kim, who was awarded W1.5 million by the trial court. The judgment was affirmed in all respects except for W500,000 awarded for the denial of outdoors exercise.

Mr. Kim was sentenced to eight years and ten months for aggravated burglary, and while in prison in Gwangju had to use an open toilet with only a 60 to 70cm semi-opaque screen, and sued claiming a violation of his dignity.

He had sought damages in the amount of W25 million for the denial of outdoors exercise for a 10-day period as punishment for infractions of prison rules and for mistaken prison transfers.

The trial court rejected his requests regarding the use of open toilets and denial of exercise.

He was awarded W300,000 for ten hours spent in chains when an error by a prison employee had him transferred to another prison.

The appeals court ruled, “compensation is required for the humiliation felt because of the noise, smell, and exposure of body parts every time the open toilet was used, and the denial of all exercise for a ten-day period for infractions of prison rules was also a serious violation of physical freedom.”

Accordingly he was awarded W500,000 for the use of open toilets, W500,000 for the denial of exercise, and W500,00 for the mistaken prison transfer.

The Supreme Court affirmed the compensation of W1,000,000 for the use of open toilets and mistaken prison transfer but found no need to compensate for the denial of exercise.

The Supreme Court announced, “prisoners accused of rules violations present concerns for the safety of other prisoners, so the restriction of exercise for them at the discretion of the prison does not violate social standards.”

For an example of the open toilets used in prison you could watch Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”.

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