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NCJ Number: 154284 Find in a Library
Title: Supreme Court and Prisoners' Rights
Journal: Federal Probation  Volume:59  Issue:1  Dated:(March 1995)  Pages:36-46
Author(s): J E Call
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
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Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
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Box 6000
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United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the prisoners' rights law established by the U.S. Supreme Court, as it examines cases both chronologically and by subject area.
Abstract: Historically, the U.S. Supreme Court case law on prisoners' rights can be divided into three periods: the Hands-Off Period (before 1964), the Rights Period (1964-78), and the Deference Period (1979-present). Before the 1960's, courts did not involve themselves in the issue of prisoners' rights. In the early 1960's, lower Federal courts began moving away from the hands-off approach. They showed an increasing willingness to identify rights of inmates found in the U.S. Constitution and to protect those rights. The Deference Period began in 1979 with the Bell v. Wolfish decision. The Supreme Court resolved five issues in that case and ruled against the inmates on all of them. In ruling against the inmates, the Court set the tone for the Deference Period. During this period, inmates would lose on most prisoners' rights issues before the U.S. Supreme Court, which would emphasize the need to give deference to the expertise of corrections officials. This discussion examines the four major substantive areas that have been addressed most often by the Court's cases: right to access the courts, individual rights, due process issues, and cruel and unusual punishment. The overall conclusion is that U.S. Supreme Court cases tend to favor inmates with respect to their right to access the courts and tend to favor the prisons in the other three areas. Based on an examination of the positions of the current justices on the relevant issues, the author concludes that 5-4 prisoners' rights decisions decided in favor of prisons in the next several years. He thus advises that the Deference Period may be far from over. 79 notes
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Access to courts; Cruel and unusual punishment; Inmate lawsuits; Prisoner's rights; Right to Due Process; US Supreme Court decisions
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