Idaho Inmates Sue Alcohol Industry

Inmates housed at an Idaho prison have filed a lawsuit against the alcohol industry, blaming their crimes on alcohol addiction. The inmates say the companies that sell alcohol are responsible since they do not warn consumers they could be addicted to the products.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Keith Allen Brown, 52, is serving a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of shooting a man to death. Brown claims his problems started decades ago when  he tasted alcohol for the first time. The report indicates Brown has spent almost 30 years of his life in prison.

Defendants listed on the lawsuit total eight and include companies Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller Brewing and the owner of Jim Beam whiskey, American Brands. The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 10.

Four other inmates, Jeremy Joseph Brown, Cory Alan Baugh, Woodrow John Grant and Steven Todd Thompson, have joined Brown as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Reportedly, the inmates drafted their own lawsuit and it appears the group plans to represent themselves in the case as they do not have an attorney at this time. Each submitted an affidavit outlining the negative impacts alcohol addiction has had on their lives.  

“I have spent a great deal of that time in prison because of situations that have arose because of people being drunk, or because of situations in which alcohol played a major role,” Keith Allen Brown wrote. “At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.”

According to WTVR News, the plaintiffs are suing for “a cool billion”. The report goes on to make a comparison to tobacco lawsuits.

“But eventually, alcohol makers – and down the road, fast food chains – will get the same treatment as big tobacco in a society that wants somebody else to pay for our own bad decisions and weaknesses,” the WTVR report said.

Reportedly, alcohol companies have not responded to the inmates’ lawsuit.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Statistics continue to show that use or misuse of addictive drugs (including alcohol) is involved in over 50% of felonies and is a major factor in criminal recidivism.”

One question bound to be asked during the case is what type of treatment is being offered to inmates and whether or not the men participated in any programs. Media reports do not  indicate whether or not the men have attempted treatment for their alleged addictions.   

The Idaho Statesman reported about a lawsuit filed last February by a South Dakota Indian tribe. In that lawsuit Oglala Sioux accused beer companies and a nearby store of playing a role in the alcohol problem on the reservation, indicating that the defendants disregarded the tribe’s no alcohol policy.

That case was dismissed, but the judge did acknowledge alcohol “undoubtedly” played a role in the problems occurring on the reservation and “it may well be that the defendants could or should do more to try and improve those conditions.”