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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76961 Find in a Library
Title: Noble Holdings as Empty Promises - Minimum Due Process at Prison Disciplinary Hearings
Journal: New England Journal on Prison Law  Volume:7  Issue:1  Dated:(Winter 1981)  Pages:145-192
Author(s): T J Fleming
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 48
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Minimum due process requirements at prison disciplinary hearings are discussed in terms of the decision in Wolff v. McDonnell (1974); unanswered questions, implementation of procedural safeguards, and recomended changes are considered.
Abstract: In Wolff v. McDonnell, the Supreme Court held that the minimum requirements of procedural due process appropriate for the circumstances must be observed at prison disciplinary hearings where the forfeiture of good time credit or the penalty of solitary confinement are possible outcomes. The Court mandated that inmates must be given written notice of the alleged violations at least 24 hours before the disciplinary hearing. However, the procedural safeguard of adequate notice is blatantly disregarded when informant information is used. The court also held that a prison may provide for greater procedural safeguards than required by Wolff through the promulgation of regulations. In practice, however, this holding has allowed for violation of procedural time limits by prison authorities. Several courts have held that the accused must prove actual prejudice before a remedy will become available under time limit provisions. According to the Court's decision, due process does not require that the hearing officers at a disciplinary hearing have no connection with the prison. Thus, hearing officers may be chosen from among the prison staff, and the possibility of prejudice against an inmate exists. In addition, the inmate is not entitled to counsel at hearing unless the accused is illiterate or the issues are complex. The accused is entitled to present his or her version of the facts. However, lower courts have generally deferred to the disciplinary board's decisions to deny an inmate the right to call witnesses on his or her behalf. The final procedural safeguard established by the Court is the requirement of a written statement as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for imposed sanctions. In practice, disciplinary boards continue to provide insufficient reasons in their written statements to explain their verdicts. It is suggested that more stringent procedural safeguards are necessary at disciplinary hearings. Specifically, comprehensive advance written notice of the charges should be provided, procedural time limits should be strictly enforced, the board should include at least one member who is not associated with the prison, inmates should be allowed to retain counsel, and the right to present a defense should be greatly expanded. The article provides 178 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Administrative hearings; Inmate discipline; Judicial decisions; Prisoner's rights; Right to Due Process; US Supreme Court
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