Employment Status — Inmates and Prisoners

New Jersey workers’ compensation laws allow employees who suffer work-related injuries to receive benefits to counteract the negative effect of their injuries.  Although workers’ compensation usually applies in traditional employment situations, it may not apply to all those who work.  One example in which workers’ compensation may not be available is when the worker is an inmate or prisoner.

New Jersey courts have held that an inmate or prisoner in a county prison is not an employee, even if he or she is performing labor at the time of the injury.  Drake v. County of Essex, 192 N.J. Super. 177 (App. Div. 1983).  The court went on to explain that the prisoner’s services were not performed within the constraints of a traditional employment relationship and that there was no basis to hire or fire the prisoner.  As a result, inmates and prisoners are usually not able to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Although an inmate or prisoner who is injured while working in prison may not be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits, there may be other remedies available, such as monetary damages.  If you, a friend, or a family member was injured while working in prison, it is important that you understand your legal rights and contact an experienced attorney who not only can explain the law to you, but can also assist you in fighting for the rights and benefits to which you are entitled.