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NCJ Number: 50757 Find in a Library
Title: CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PRISONS
Journal: CORRECTIONS MAGAZINE  Volume:3  Issue:4  Dated:(DECEMBER 1977)  Pages:3-16
Author(s): S GETTINGER
Corporate Author: Correctional Information Service, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1977
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: Correctional Information Service, Inc
New York, NY 10017
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE GROWING TREND TOWARD INMATE LAWSUITS RESULTING IN COURT ORDERS DECLARING PRISONS (AND ENTIRE PRISON SYSTEMS) UNCONSTITUTIONAL IS TRACED, WITH REFERENCES TO SITUATIONS IN RHODE ISLAND AND OTHER STATES.
Abstract: THE ARTICLE NOTES THE REASONS CITED BY FEDERAL JUDGES FOR ISSUING SUCH ORDERS AND TOUCHES ON THE RESPONSES OF PRISON ADMINISTRATORS, BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE, TO THE ORDERS. IT IS POINTED OUT THAT ALL THE MAJOR PRISONS OF NINE STATES HAVE BEEN DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND THAT INDIVIDUAL PRISONS HAVE COME UNDER STIFF COURT ORDERS IN MANY OTHER STATES. THIS SITUATION HAS RESULTED FROM THE LARGE NUMBER OF 'CONDITION SUITS'--CLASS-ACTION LAWSUITS IN WHICH INMATES ASSERT THAT THE TOTALITY OF LIVING CONDITIONS IN A PRISON MAKES CONFINEMENT THERE CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT FOR ALL INMATES. SUCH SUITS, WHICH REPRESENT A MAJOR ESCALATION FROM EARLIER INMATE ACTIONS AGAINST SPECIFIC PRACTICES, HAVE INSPIRED AGGRESSIVE JUDICIAL INTERVENTION, INCLUDING THE DICTATION OF PRECISE STANDARDS AND THE APPOINTMENT OF OFFICIALS TO SEE THAT THE STANDARDS ARE MET. IT IS SUGGESTED THAT, IN SOME CASES, FEDERAL JUDGES HAVE COME 'PRECARIOUSLY CLOSE TO TAKING OVER STATE PRISONS.' THE HISTORY OF FEDERAL COURT INTERVENTION IN PRISON MATTERS IS TRACED FROM THE PASSAGE OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS LAW OF 1871, WHICH GRANTED CITIZENS WHO HAD BEEN DENIED CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BY STATE OFFICIALS ACCESS TO FEDERAL COURT, TO CHALLENGE THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF ENTIRE PRISON SYSTEMS, THE FIRST OF WHICH TOOK PLACE IN ARKANSAS IN 1969. IT IS POINTED OUT THAT OPPOSITION TO COURT ORDERS CONCERNING PRISONS CENTERS NOT ON THE BASIC FINDING OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY, BUT ON THE STEPS THAT JUDGES TAKE TO PROVIDE RELIEF TO INMATES. IT IS ALSO NOTED THAT THE STATES INVARIABLY PLEAD THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO RESTRUCTURE THEIR PRISON SYSTEMS. SPECIFIC COURT ORDERS, THE CONDITIONS THEY ADDRESS AND THE RESPONSES OF PRISON OFFICIALS ARE DESCRIBED FOR RHODE ISLAND, ALABAMA, AND MISSISSIPPI. THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE NATIONAL PRISON PROJECT AND OTHER LEGAL GROUPS WORKING ON BEHALF OF INMATES IS CITED, AS IS A RULING BY A FEDERAL CIRCUIT COURT IN ALABAMA THAT CUT BACK ON A LOWER FEDERAL COURT'S IMPOSITION OF REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPROVING ALABAMA'S PRISONS. THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE THREAT OF COURT INTERVENTION MAY CAUSE CORRECTIONAL ADMINISTRATORS TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN STANDARDS IS NOTED. PHOTOGRAPHS ILLUSTRATING PRISON CONDITIONS ARE INCLUDED. (LKM)
Index Term(s): Alabama; Correctional facilities; Cruel and unusual punishment; Federal courts; Inmate grievances; Judicial decisions; Judicial review; Mississippi; Rhode Island
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