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NCJ Number: 75736 Find in a Library
Title: Supreme Court's Concept of Punishment - Bell v. Wolfish
Journal: Pretrial Services Annual Journal  Volume:3  Dated:(1980)  Pages:143-157
Author(s): R G Frey
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Definitions of the concept of punishment as presented by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bell v. Wolfish are examined.
Abstract: Bell v. Wolfish is distinguished from other prisoner rights cases in that a Federal institution was involved, the facility was generally considered a modern one, and the plaintiffs were pretrial detainees rather than convicted inmates. The case was narrowed to a focus on five institutional practices: double bunking, censorship of published material, prohibition of delivery of food or personal items to detainees, searches conducted without the presence of inmates, routine body cavity searches after contact visits. The Supreme Court reversed an appeals court and upheld these practices. It thus revised due process standards by basing criteria for the termination of these policies on whether plaintiffs can establish that the policies were established as a form of punishment. The Court assumed that all detainees were legitimately confined. The loss of liberty was removed from the due process area and defined as an inherent incident of confinement. The Court declined to define specific criteria for determining punishment in institutional procedural areas. The dissenting opinion recommended that the definition should be based on a weighing of government interests served by the practice against the deprivations suffered by the individual. The major defect in the decision is the attempt to apply standards to unconvicted pretrial detainees which were developed for use with convicted offenders. Footnotes and case citations are included.
Index Term(s): Detention; Judicial decisions; Pretrial procedures; Prisoner's rights; Punishment; US Supreme Court
Note: This paper presented at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Convention, March, 1980, in Oklahoma City, OK
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