Farmer v. Brennan

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Farmer v. Brennan
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Citation 511 U.S. 825
Date decided June 6, 1994
Appealed from 7th Circuit


Ms. Farmer was a trans/affirmed woman in the 1990s. However, Ms. Farmer was incarcerated among the male-only section.

Ms. Farmer was beaten & raped by a male inmate while in the male prison in Indiana.

Procedural History

Mr. Brennan = prison warden = defendant

Ms. Farmer sued Brennan in federal court for violation of the 8th Amendment.

Farmer lost in the trial court because she supposedly hadn't voiced safety concerns to prison officials.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the male prison boss.


May prison officials incur liability for in-humane prison conditions if they had actual knowledge of & dis-regarded risk of harm to inmate health or safety?


Farmer stated that she had Gender Incongruence.

Farmer argued that her rape was cruel & un-usual punishment.

Farmer argued that the prison officials acted with deliberate indifference (exposing her to substantial physical & emotional harm).


Yes. Under the 8th Amendment, prison officials may be held liable for inhumane prison conditions if they actually knew about & disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to inmate health or safety.




David Souter: The 8th Amendment's prohibition of cruel & un-usual punishment imposes certain restrictions & duties on prison officials.


  • tort law standard/objective: court should impose liability if officials disregarded risk that they should have known about.
  • criminal law standard/subjective: court should impose culpability if officials disregarded risk they actually knew about.


  • Harry Blackmun: I don't agree that infliction of punishment on Ms. Farmer requires intentional conduct by the prison officials.
  • Clarence Thomas: Farmer's rape didn't amount to punishment because the rape wasn't ordered by a judge or jury.