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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76722 Find in a Library
Title: Review of Prisoners' Rights Under the First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments
Journal: Duquesne University Law Review  Volume:18  Dated:(Spring 1980)  Pages:683-704
Author(s): J A Mackarey
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 22
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This comment surveys the results of the Supreme Court's application of the principle of mutual accommodation in the areas of first, fifth, and eighth amendment rights by reviewing several Court opinions and by outlining the scope of these constitutional guarantees retained throughout incarceration.
Abstract: The only effective, basically unrestricted means to voice prisoner grievance under the first amendment are through correspondence, as well as during the limited visitation periods. For incarcerated offenders procedural due process appears to be applied according to the extent of the deprivation which may occur. That is, whenever the possibility that the duration of confinement may be increased during the prison hearing or procedure, the Court is more willing to attach to attack greater procedural protections. The inmate's right of access to the courts, derived from the due process clause, is probably the most 'protected' of all the constitutional guarantees by the Supreme Court. For example, in Johnson v. Avery, the Court struck down a prison regulation which prohibited jailhouse lawyers from assisting fellow inmates. The eighth amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment as applied to the prison context has been the least developed by the Court, but is the constitutional area most ripe for judicial pronouncement. It is the vehicle by which inmates may challenge the conditions of confinement. Practically speaking, it is difficult to dispute the decisions of the Court because the stark realities of prison life do justify the Court's balancing of interests, as well as the great weight assigned to the maintenance of control within the prison. Yet, from a theoretical, 'constitutional right' viewpoint, it is difficult to accept the pronouncements of the court. The Supreme Court has applied a balance of interest analysis which, at least in the areas of first, fifth, and eighth amendment rights, seems to be weighted heavily on the side of penological interests. The limitations imposed by the Court on the constitutional rights of prisoners do, however, appear to be a workable framework within which the Federal courts can exercise their 'supervisory' powers with care and concern for the plight of the imprisoned individual. Over 130 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Cruel and unusual punishment; Federal courts; Prisoner's rights; Right to Due Process; US Supreme Court
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