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NCJ Number: 63068 Find in a Library
Title: FUTURE OF PRISONERS' UNIONS - JONES V. NORTH CAROLINA PRISONERS' LABOR UNION - 433 US 119(1977)
Journal: HARVARD CIVIL RIGHTS - CIVIL LIBERTIES LAW REVIEW  Volume:13  Issue:3  Dated:(SUMMER 1978)  Pages:799-826
Author(s): R MONTOYA; P COGGINS
Corporate Author: Harvard University
Law School
United States of America
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 28
Sponsoring Agency: Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE SUPREME COURT DECISION IN JONES V. NORTH CAROLINA PRISONERS' LABOR UNION WAS BASED ON FALSE RATIONALES AND COULD HALT THE PRISONERS' UNION MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES.
Abstract: BY 1974, PRISON UNIONS HAS BEEN STARTED IN ALL AREAS BUT THE SOUTHWEST, AND WERE ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY OPPOSED BY PRISON OFFICIALS. THE NORTH CAROLINA PRISONERS' LABOR UNION (NCPLU) WAS ORGANIZED TO IMPROVE PRISONERS' WORKING CONDITIONS THROUGH COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND BY 1974 HAD 2,000 MEMBERS IN 40 PRISONS. THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS THEN PROHIBITED INMATE SOLICITATION OF OTHER INMATES FOR UNION MEMBERSHIP AS WELL AS BULK MAILINGS CONCERNING THE UNION FROM OUTSIDERS TO INMATES. THE UNION FILED SUIT, CHARGING THAT ITS RIGHTS OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW WERE BEING VIOLATED. LOWER COURTS FAILED TO REACH A CONSENSUS ON THE RIGHT OF THE STATE TO REGULATE THE UNION, BUT THE SUPREME COURT UPHELD THE STATE'S REGULATIONS. THE COURT GAVE THREE REASONS FOR ITS DECISION: THE JUDICIARY SHOULD PLAY A VERY LIMITED ROLE IN LITIGATION, ADEQUATE ALTERNATIVES FOR PRISONERS' UNIONS EXISTED, AND THE CONCEPT OF A PRISONERS' UNION WAS A POTENTIAL THREAT TO ORDER AND SECURITY. THE COURT FAILED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE APPLICABILITY OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO PRISONERS' RIGHTS TO UNIONIZE AND SHOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT THIS RIGHT IS FUNDAMENTAL AND MUST BE PROTECTED BY STRICT STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL REVIEW. A LOWER COURT FOUND THAT PRISON OFFICIALS HAD FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THE UNION WAS A DANGER TO PRISON ORDER AND THAT NO LESS DRASTIC MEANS OF CONTROL WERE AVAILABLE. IN ASSUMING THAT ALTERNATIVES EXISTED, THE COURT IGNORED THE RIGHT OF PRISONERS TO UNIONIZE AS WELL AS THE INFORMATIVE AND REHABILITATIVE ASPECTS OF UNION ORGANIZATION. THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF THE JONES DECISIONS IS UNCLEAR BECAUSE THE COURT DID NOT SPECIFY THE ISSUES TO WHICH THE APPROACH WAS APPLICABLE. ITS INFLUENCE COULD BE LIMITED CONSIDERABLY BY NARROW INTERPRETATIONS, BUT THE COURT HAS STILL MADE A FUNDAMENTAL ERROR IN FAILING TO RECOGNIZE IMPORTANT FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES. FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED.
Index Term(s): Equal Protection; Freedom of speech; Inmate unions; Prisoner's rights; US Supreme Court
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=63068

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