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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70237 Find in a Library
Title: Corrections Law Developments - Prison Disciplinary Proceedings
Journal: Criminal Law Bulletin  Volume:16  Issue:4  Dated:(July-August 1980)  Pages:381-387
Author(s): F Cohen
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 7
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Supreme Court's decision on inmate due process rights in prison disciplinary proceedings in Wolff v. MacDonnel is critiqued, and guidance is given for prisons' implementation of the Court decision.
Abstract: In Wolff v. MacDonnel, the Supreme Court was confronted with challenges to various practices, including prison disciplinary procedures, at the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex. The disciplinary procedures which existed at the time of MacDonnel's class action were based on a broad statutory scheme and a more detailed set of regulations framed by prison authorities. Nebraska's basic argument before the Court was that its procedure for disciplining inmates, even for serious misconduct, was a policy matter which involved no constitutional issue. The Court rejected this argument out of hand, concluding that due process applies in prison disciplinary proceedings. The Court concluded that inmates charged with serious misconduct, which may lead to the loss of good time or the imposition of solitary confinement, are entitled to written notice of the claimed violation at least 24 hours before the hearing, along with a written statement by the factfinders of the evidence to be used and the reasons for the disciplinary action taken. In addition, the inmate should be allowed to call witnesses and present documentary evidence when this would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals. Full due process rights, such as the right to counsel, were not granted by the Court, under the reasoning that possible sanctions in prison discipline are not severe enough to warrant full due process proceedings. Although the Court was not clear about the conditions under which the prescribed due process rights are to be used, corrections officials should follow the advance notice procedure for all but the mildest disciplinary procedures, and the right for inmates to call witnesses should be applicable except in rare circumstances whose nature is documented. Footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Inmate discipline; Judicial decisions; Right to Due Process; US Supreme Court
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