Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 12 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

put it, that officials used force with "a knowing willingness that [harm] occur," id., at 7 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). This standard of purposeful or knowing conduct is not, however, necessary to satisfy the mens rea requirement of deliberate indifference for claims challenging conditions of confinement; "the very high state of mind prescribed by Whitley does not apply to prison conditions cases." Wilson, supra, at 302-303.

With deliberate indifference lying somewhere between the poles of negligence at one end and purpose or knowledge at the other, the Courts of Appeals have routinely equated deliberate indifference with recklessness.4 See, e. g., La-Marca v. Turner, 995 F. 2d 1526, 1535 (CA11 1993); Manarite v. Springfield, 957 F. 2d 953, 957 (CA1 1992); Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F. 2d 1435, 1443 (CA9 1991); Mc-Gill v. Duckworth, 944 F. 2d, at 347; Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F. 2d 848, 851-852 (CA4 1990); Martin v. White, 742 F. 2d 469, 474 (CA8 1984); see also Springfield v. Kibbe, 480 U. S. 257, 269 (1987) (O'Connor, J., dissenting). It is, indeed, fair to say that acting or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is the equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk.

That does not, however, fully answer the pending question about the level of culpability deliberate indifference entails, for the term recklessness is not self-defining. The civil law generally calls a person reckless who acts or (if the person has a duty to act) fails to act in the face of an unjustifiably high risk of harm that is either known or so obvious that it should be known. See Prosser and Keeton 34, pp. 213-214; Restatement (Second) of Torts 500 (1965). The criminal

4 Between the poles lies "gross negligence" too, but the term is a "nebulous" one, in practice typically meaning little different from recklessness as generally understood in the civil law (which we discuss later in the text). See W. Keeton, D. Dobbs, R. Keeton, & D. Owen, Prosser and Keeton on Law of Torts 34, p. 212 (5th ed. 1984) (hereinafter Prosser and Keeton).

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