Inmates Rights and Special Circumstances
Posted by Melda Research on May 3rd, 2019
The Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution- lists the most fundamental rights that aim at protecting the individual liberties. Inmates have specific rights and also are given special circumstances when particular matters arise. Several legal mechanisms can be followed by inmates in prisons to challenge their confinement to the correctional facility. The case of Holt versus Sarver in 1969, in which federal appeal judges declared the whole Arkansas prison system to be unconstitutional and referred it to a ‘dark and evil world’ and placed it under federal supervision, led to the birth of the “conditions of confinement lawsuit” (Stohr & Walsh, 2011). Since then federal courts are now engaged in monitoring and operation of entire prison systems. Today, they are numerous habeas corpus grievances concerning the conditions of an inmate confinement.
Several legal mechanisms can be used by inmates to challenge their confinement in correctional facilities as well as associated with the practices of correctional officers. The costs that arise from the challenge are held liable to the state or the federal government. First, a prisoner can file a writ of habeas corpus, in which they assert that they are being held unjustly and ask the court to justify their conviction and incarceration (Mays, Winfree Jr & Winfree, 2004). This kind of petition challenges the fact that incarceration and a successful challenge may imply the conviction could later be overturned, and the inmate set free or retried. When a prisoner files a state of habeas corpus, they seek to challenge and review the legality of the correctional facility conditions or the conditions of their confinement. When an inmate files a federal habeas corpus, they seek to demonstrate that they have been wrongfully convicted in violation of the federal rights or make a claim of a constitutional violation. Second, inmates may also challenge the trial procedures that led to their conviction. For example, under this legal mechanism, a prisoner may claim that physical evidence or an admission of guilt was admitted at trial improperly. Also, in another instance, a prisoner may argue that they were denied the right to a jury trial or that the jury that charged them was improperly constituted. An example of such as case is the 1986 case of Batson v. Kentucky in which the petitioner asserted that black people had been systematically excluded from the trial and the court ruled that it was unconstitutional and the case was remanded for further action. The third legal mechanism that inmates use is Section 1983 suits in which they seek to challenge the constitutionality of the prison conditions under which they are held (Whitehead, Dodson & Edwards, 2012). The fourth legal mechanism that prisoners may use is filing and making a state civil tort lawsuit in which they seek to show that the defendant violated that duty. In these instances, a prisoner may file a civil tort lawsuit claiming that a police officer caused harm or an injury. The fifth legal mechanism that an inmate might use is filing and making an injunction to obtain relief. Injunctions get used to prevent a multiplicity of actions, to safeguard priority of jurisdiction or to maintain the status quo. For an inmate to obtain injunctive relief, they must prove that without such relief there would result in an irreparable injury (Hanser, 2012). Lastly, an inmate may file a case based on the eighth amendment in corrections that states that there shall not be any charging of excessive bail, or imposing of excessive fines or inflicting of cruel and unusual punishments. Inmates may use this amendment as a basis for challenging conditions of confinement.
Inmates with special needs that include mental illness, handicapped, chemical dependency and those with a communicable disease pose four management issues that can effectively be neutralized by certain recommendations. First, special needs detainees are violent and prone to be disruptive. This condition is attributed to the experience of anxiety when placed together with other inmates. It is recommended that to address this management concern that the prisoners with special needs must be placed in different areas with other inmates. The second management issue arising from inmates with special needs is that they have a higher risk of committing suicide compared to other prisoners. A recommendation for dealing with this management issue is ensuring that they are closely monitored to prevent them from committing suicide. A third management concern affecting prisoners with special needs is that they have tax scarce medical resources. This challenge can be solved by recommending education and training of correctional officers to equip them with ways to assist these inmates with special needs. Lastly, inmates with special needs are easy targets to abuse by other prisoners; hence posing a challenge in management. It is recommended that the inmates with special needs should be separated from the others and also allows for harsh punishment to those abusing inmates with special needs.
The use and policy of supermax housing in corrections violates the offender’s rights against being subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment’ as it is guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Supermax housing entails of a single cell confinement of a prisoner for 23 - 24 hours every day and allows little or no contact with other people. In the US, supermax prisoners live for months in a windowless, poured concrete box. Supermax housing presents the extreme end of permissible punishment in our criminal justice system (Reiter, 2015). The supermax housing can, therefore, be seen as the torture of prisoners, which is a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution that requires no unusual punishment shall be inflicted.
Hanser, R. D. (2012). Introduction to corrections. Sage.
Mays, G. L., Winfree Jr, L. T., & Winfree, L. T. (2004). Essentials of corrections. Cengage Learning.
Reiter, K. (2015). Supermax Administration and the Eighth Amendment: Deference, Discretion, and Double Bunking, 1968-2010. UC Irvine L. Rev., 5, 89.
Stohr, M. K., & Walsh, A. (2011). Corrections: the essentials. Sage Publications.
Whitehead, J. T., Dodson, K. D., & Edwards, B. D. (2012). Corrections: Exploring crime, punishment, and justice in America. Routledge.
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Joined: January 25th, 2019
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