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Chapter 10. The Legal Rights of Offenders. Legal Rights of Offenders. Inmate access to courts Growth of court intervention in prison administration Constitutional bases of inmate rights 1 st , 4 th , 8 th and 14 th amendments Inmate lawsuits and their control. Inmate Access to Courts.

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chapter 10

Chapter 10

The Legal Rightsof Offenders

legal rights of offenders
Legal Rights of Offenders
  • Inmate access to courts
  • Growth of court intervention in prison administration
  • Constitutional bases of inmate rights
    • 1st, 4th, 8th and 14th amendments
  • Inmate lawsuits and their control
inmate access to courts
Inmate Access to Courts
  • 1941 Ex Parte Hull: prisons cannot censor inmate petitions to courts
  • No enforcement of decision until 1969
  • Johnson v. Avery: state can limit but not ban activities of “jailhouse lawyers”
  • Slaves of state doctrine (Ruffin v. Commonwealth, 1871) in VA Supreme Court justified hands-off era
inmate lawsuits
Inmate Lawsuits
  • Section 1983 of Civil Rights Act of 1971
  • Habeas Corpus: “you have the body”; challenges legality of imprisonment
  • Monroe v Pape, 1961: prisoners can bypass state courts if constitutional rights involved
  • Bounds v Smith, 1977: legal assistance must be provided to inmates
limitations on inmate lawsuits
Limitations on Inmate Lawsuits
  • Lewis v. Casey, 1996: law libraries, etc., not required by Bounds
    • Prisoners must show actual harm to sue
    • Security concerns can limit access
  • O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 1999: state courts must hear suits before federal courts are accessed
the demise of the hands off era
The Demise of the Hands-Off Era
  • Holt v. Sarver, 1971: court took over Arkansas Prisons – series of 8th amendment suits followed
  • Cruelties of building tenders violated 8th amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment
  • Pugh v Locke, 1976: “Totality of Conditions”
  • Hutto v. Finney, 1978: added two conditions
  • Each factor creating the conditions must be listed
  • Steps to correct each must be specified
ruiz v estelle 1981
Ruiz v. Estelle, 1981
  • Overcrowding a violation of 8th amendment
  • Federal court took over Texas system for almost 12 years
  • Use of building tenders banned
  • These cases had little impact on state spending – funds use and practices changed
  • Reports of violence increased as building tenders lost control to CO's
the end of the hands on era
The End of the Hands-On Era
  • Bell v. Wolfish, 1979: permitted wide use ofstrip searches and double celling
  • Restrictions must serve a legitimate government purpose, cannot be merely punitive
  • Rhodes v. Chapman, 1981: 8th amendment violated if:
    • pain was inflicted unnecessarily or wantonly, or
    • was grossly disproportionate to crime
one hand on one hand off era
One-Hand On, One-Hand Off Era
  • Slaves of State, other “hands-off” era doctrines rejected
  • Court micro-management of prisons ceased
  • Limited prisoner rights upheld
  • State security, budgetary concerns supported
first amendment protections
First Amendment Protections
  • Freedom of religion, especially beliefs
  • Freedom of speech, especially political and legal
  • Freedom of the press – limited press access (rights of press, not inmates)
  • Right to assemble – security issues virtually eliminate right to assemble, form unions
inmate religious freedoms
Inmate Religious Freedoms
  • Discrimination based on religion illegal
  • Legitimacy of groups judged on basis of:
    • Sincerity of believers
    • Age of doctrines
    • Similarity of other religions
    • Financial and security costs of practices
limitations on religion
Limitations on Religion
  • Threatens security or discipline
  • Interferes with legal powers of discretion
  • Contradicts a reasonable rule
  • Poses an excessive financial burden

These leave religious practices largely in the hands of institutional authorities

  • Libel, conspiracy, threats, obscenity always illegal
  • Speech that causes undue alarm can be punished
  • Mail restricted and inspected unless addressed to lawyer or court
turner v safley 1987
Turner v. Safley, 1987

(Began as a mail case) A rule is reasonable if:

  • It has a valid connection to the government interests used to justify it;
  • Inmates have other means to access the right in question
  • The right significantly impacts staff, resources or inmates and
  • There are no alternative means of achieving the goals of the rule
freedom of the press
Freedom of the Press
  • Political statements cannot be censored
  • Other publications cannot be banned unless they threaten security, safety
  • Topics that threaten treatment can be prohibited
  • No right to profit from stories of crime
  • Proceeds usually go to state treasury or victims' funds
fourth amendment rights
Fourth Amendment Rights

Privacy rights set by balance of:

  • Expectations of privacyin a particular situation or setting
  • Government need to conduct the search

“Reasonable suspicion” required unless search is a universal practice for place or group; punitive use of searches prohibited

reasonableness of a search
Reasonableness of a Search
  • Privacy expectations and location of search
  • Level of justification(reasonable suspicion vs. probable cause)
  • Manner in which search is conducted
  • Routine nature of search vs.singling out a specific person
    • Latter requires reasonable suspicion
probation and parole applications
Probation andParole Applications
  • Greater than prison but restricted expectations still apply
  • Written agency policy or condition of liberty can permit routine (warrant less) searches of homes, cars and persons by PO's(Griffiths v. Wisconsin, 1987)
  • Police searches of probationers/parolee'sand their homes permitted with reasonable suspicion
eighth amendment rights
Eighth Amendment Rights

Illegal conditions of confinement:

  • Shock the conscience of the court or violate public standards of decency
  • Wantonly inflict unnecessary pain(use of force)
  • Are grossly disproportionate to crime
  • Demonstrate deliberate apathy to basic human needs (safety and medical care)
obligation to protect
Obligation to Protect
  • Detention, custody restrict or remove personal power to protect self
  • State and its officials become responsible for safety
  • Specific threats to particular persons and general conditions
  • Injury must result from neglect to justify a Section 1983 suit
medical care
Medical Care
  • Estelle v. Gamble, 1976: Suits must show “deliberate indifference” to needs by officials
  • Wilson v. Seiter, 1991: Suit must show “culpable state of mind”
  • These decisions made it very hard to sue over medical care and health effects of ventilation, and so on
use of force
Use of Force
  • Officials can apply only the “minimal reasonable force” required to accomplish legitimate goal
  • Whitley v Albers, 1986: good faith defense
  • Hudson v. Macmillan, 1992: malicious and sadistic acts justify suit even without lasting injury
fourteenth amendment rights
Fourteenth Amendment Rights
  • Suits based on 1st, 4th, and 8th Amendments often use 14th as well
  • Two clauses in 14th Amendment:
    • Due process under law – standard procedures required to deny liberty
    • Equal Protection for all regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion
punishment of disciplinary violations
Punishment ofDisciplinary Violations

Due process required:

  • Written notice of charge(s), evidence
  • Hearing by impartial person or group
  • Written justification required if inmate's request to call witnesses are denied
  • No right to jury
  • Right to counsel only for mentally impaired or those who cannot understand proceedings
due process issues
Due Process Issues
  • Confidential informants can remain unnamed if authorities can demonstrate their trustworthiness
  • Minor violations carry less need for due process
  • Justifications of process and decisions must be made to courts not inmates
  • Classification and transfers not grounds for suits
  • State created liberty interests can extend beyond federally enforced rights, tested in state courts
forcing medications
Forcing Medications
  • Applies mainly in psychiatric cases
  • Authorities must show that:
    • The inmate is dangerous to self or others
    • Use of the medication is in inmate's best interests
    • Due process has been followed and case reviewed by experts
equal protection under law
Equal Protection under Law
  • Group memberships not based on behavior cannot be used to justify differential treatment
  • Parity, or substantial equivalence, required for men and women as well as inmates at different security levels
controlling inmate suits
Controlling Inmate Suits
  • Retaliation for legal action always illegal
  • Access to courts can be limited ONLY by the court itself or the legislature
  • Legal costs can be charged to plaintiff if court finds suit to be frivolous
  • Courts can impose fees, other conditions on inmates to limit suits
prison litigation reform act of 1996
Prison LitigationReform Act of 1996
  • Filing fees required for all federal suits
  • Limits attorney's fees and damage awards
  • Bars suits for psychological harm in absence of physical injuries
  • Forces judges to screen suits, block frivolous ones
  • Encourages use of video, telephone links