As citizens, prisoners are protected by the constitution even while incarcerated. Correctional facilities must provide adequate medical care, food and shelter, and prisoners must be reasonably free of fear from guards and other inmates. If you feel that your rights have been violated and the prison is responsible, you can choose to file a lawsuit against the facility once you have exhausted all formal and informal administrative routes to solve the problem. You must be able to show that you filed a formal complaint and followed it with every possible appeal when the matter was not resolved to your satisfaction.
Determine what type of lawsuit to file. According to Prison Law Office, the most common suits brought against prisons are for civil rights violations, wherein the prison has either acted against or neglected to observe federal law.
Gather facts and evidence. In most cases, negligence can only be considered if the victim can prove that the prison was willfully ignoring a medical need. Similarly, something like cruel and unusual punishment can only be cited if it can be proved that the perpetrator was acting out of malice.
Contact the clerk at your federal court district, and ask for information on civil rights suits. Most states have a statue of limitations on civil rights cases. Often suits must be filed within one or two years of the offense to be considered. The clerk can also send you copies of current civil rights suit paperwork.
Fill out the civil rights suit paperwork completely, and file it by sending it back to the clerk. Pay the current filing fee, or ask for the fee to be waved on grounds of poverty.
Ask for a lawyer. If the judge reviewing your case determines your case to be exceptional, or that you have sufficient grounds to continue, they can ask for a lawyer willing to represent your case. If your case has been judged sufficient but no lawyer is willing to represent you, write to the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union explaining your situation and asking for help.
Attend all scheduled hearings and provide testimony and evidence as required by the court.