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Chapter 5. The Law of Corrections. Foundations of Correctional Law. Constitution fundamental law for federal government & for each state, containing a design for government & basic rights of individuals Statute laws passed by legislative authority e.g., California corrections: Title 15

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chapter 5
Chapter 5

The Law of Corrections

foundations of correctional law
Foundations of Correctional Law
  • Constitution
    • fundamental law for federal government & for each state, containing a design for government & basic rights of individuals
  • Statute
    • laws passed by legislative authority
    • e.g., California corrections: Title 15
  • CaseLaw
    • legal rules produced by judicial decisions
  • Regulations
    • created by governmental agencies
    • Goal: to implement details of agency and the law as it pertains to agency operations
law and the u s supreme court
Law and the U.S. Supreme Court
  • The End of the Hand’s-off Policy
    • a judicial policy of noninterference in the internal administration of prisons
  • Access to the Courts
    • the increase in filings was assisted by Supreme Court decisions that eased prisoner access to the courts
    • limitations were imposed on the grounds of institutional security, but prisoners need access to the courts to ensure that officials followed the law.
  • The Prisoners’ Rights Movement
  • the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union became concerned about prisoners’ rights.
hands off policy
hands-off policy
  • a judicial policy of noninterference in the internal administration of prisons
the end of hands off
the end of “hands-off”
  • Cooper v. Pate (US, 1964)
    • prisoners in state & local institutions are entitled to protections of §1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 USC 1983), which imposes civil liability on anyone who denies another of the latter’s constitutional rights.
    • “civil liability”
      • responsibility for compensating another for the denial of the latter’s rights
      • award for damages may be awarded to a plaintiff in a civil action
    • §1983 = most common avenue for challenging jail & prison conditions

legal rules created by judicial decisions, which serve to guide decisions of other judges in subsequent similar cases

habeas corpus
“habeas corpus”

a judicial order (called a “writ”) requesting that a person holding another person produce the prisoner and give reasons to justify continued confinement

  • “you have the body”
legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings
legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings

“least restrictive method”

a principle which requires officials to select that administrative remedy for any problem so that the remedy constitutes the least possible threat to personal rights and represents the least invasive means of solving the problem

legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings1
legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings

“compelling state interest”

a principle which requires the government to have a significant, legitimate, and persuasive (i.e., compelling”) reason for wanting to impose a regulation before it may create or impose a condition, rule, or procedure

legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings2
legal doctrines controlling correctional rulings ...

“clear and present danger”

a principle which allows officials to infringe on rights arguably protected by the 1st Amendment, in cases when the threat to security or the safety of individuals is so obvious that it constitutes a “clear and present danger” that cannot be ignored

legal doctrines controlling correctional ruling
legal doctrines controlling correctional ruling

“rational basis test”

a principle which requires that a regulation constitute a reasonable and rational method of advancing a legitimate penological interest or institutional goal.

constitutional rights of prisoners
Constitutional Rights of Prisoners
  • The First Amendment
  • The Fourth Amendment
  • The Eighth Amendment
  • The Fourteenth Amendment
  • A Change of Judicial Direction
  • Impact of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement
1st amendment rights
Procunier v. Martinez, 1974

mail censorship permitted only for prison security

Turner v. Safley, 1987

inmate-inmate mail can be prohibited; restriction must be related to legit. interests.

Thornburgh v. Abbott, 1989

warden may reject incoming publications, based on security concerns

1st Amendment rights

1st Amendment



  • Fulwood v. Clemmer, 1962
    • Muslim faith is legitimate
  • Gittlemacker v. Prasse, 1970
    • state not required to provide clergy
  • Cruz v. Beto, 1972
    • unconventional religions-Buddhism-ok
  • Kahane v. Carlson, 1975
    • Orthodox Jews right to religious diet
  • Theriault v. Carlson, 1977
    • scam religions not protected
  • O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 1987
    • work may properly interfere with religious practices
4th amendment rights
4th Amendment rights

protection against unreasonable searches and seizures

  • Lanza v. New York, 1962
    • conversations recorded in a jail visitor’s room not protected by 4th Amendment
  • US v. Hitchcock, 1972
    • warrantless search of cell is not unreasonable; evidence is admissible
  • Bell v. Wolfish, 1979
    • strip searches, esp. after visits ok, when need for searches outweighs personal rights invaded
  • Hudson v. Palmer, 1984
    • Officials may search cells without a warrant, seize materials
8th amendment rights
8th Amendment rights

protection against excessive bail & fines, andcruel & unusual punishment

  • Ruiz v. Estelle, 1975
    • Texas prison system unconstitutional
  • Estelle v. Gamble, 1976
    • Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs = “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain”
  • Rhodes v. Chapman, 1981
    • double-celling & crowding ≠ cruel & unusual. Standard = “wanton & unnecessary infliction of pain”; & condition must be “grossly disproportionate” to the severity of the crime
  • Whitley v. Albers, 1986
    • shooting inmate in leg during riot ≠ C&U (if in good faith)
  • Wilson v. Seiter, 1991
    • prisoners must show that objectively C&U conditions exist due to “deliberate indifference of officials”
14th amendment rights
no agent or instrumentality of government will use any procedures to arrest, prosecute, try, or punish any person, other than those proceduresprescribed by law14th Amendment rights

14th Amendment

due process

equal protection

the law will be applied equallyto all persons, without regard to individual characteristics as gender, race, and religion

totality of conditions
“totality of conditions”
  • the aggregate of circumstances in a correctional facility that, when considered as a whole, may violate the protections of the 8th Amendment, even though any single condition does not violate such guarantees
    • Pugh v. Locke (Alabama, 1976)
14th amendment rights1
14th Amendment rights

guarantee of due process & equal protection of the laws

  • Wolff v. McDonnell, 1974
    • basic elements of due process must be present in prison disciplinary proceedings
  • Baxter v. Palmigiano, 1976
    • no right to counsel in prison disciplinary proceedings
  • Vitek v. Jones, 1980
    • involuntary transfer of prisoner to mental hospital requires hearing & minimal elements of due process like notice and counsel
  • Sandin v. Conner, 1995
    • transfer to disciplinary segregation is not the type of atypical, significant deprivation that requires due process protections outlined in Wolff
  • a public official who investigates complaints against government officials and recommends corrective measures
  • vehicle for dispute resolution, in which the parties in conflict submit their differences to a third party for resolution, and whose decision (in the correctional setting) is binding on both parties
morrissey v brewer 1972
Morrissey v. Brewer, 1972
  • parole revocation process must include basic elements of due process (408 U.S 471)
gagnon v scarpelli 1973
Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 1973
  • probation revocation process must include basic elements of due process ( 411 U.S 778)
greenholtz v inmates neb penal corr complex 1979
Greenholtz v. Inmates(Neb. Penal & Corr. Complex), 1979
  • there is no right to parole or to be conditionally release prior to expiration ofsentence
monell v dept social services ny city 1979
Monell v. Dept. Social Services (NY city), 1979
  • individual officers AND the agency may be sued when a person’s civil rights are violated by the agency’s “customs and usages” (including poor training and supervision)
booth v churner 2001
Booth v. Churner, 2001
  • prisoner seeking monetary damages must first complete prison administrative processes before filing lawsuit (00 U.S. 99-1964)
prison litigation reform act 1966
Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1966
  • restricted number of §1983 lawsuits
    • # has dropped by nearly 50% since enactment, despite increase in prison population
  • gives greater deference to prison administrators in operation of facilities
  • prohibits filing of additional lawsuits if previous 3 were dismissed as frivolous