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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 81874 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Limits of Racial Integration in Prison
Journal: Criminal Law Bulletin  Volume:18  Issue:2  Dated:(March/April 1982)  Pages:117-153
Author(s): J B Jacobs
Date Published: 1982
Page Count: 37
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The article outlines the history of racial conflicts in American prisons and of Federal court decisions regarding prison desegregation, showing the courts' tendency to misapply school desegregation law to prisons, and prison officials' and scholars' failure to confront the problem of racial conflict among prisoners.
Abstract: Prison conditions tend to generate fear, hatred, and violence, and the high proportion of racial minorities in prison populations by the 1970's made racial conflict common in institutions. To deal with conflicts among minorities and the threat of predatory abuse by the stronger inmates, prison officials have sometimes resorted to explicit segregation; e.g., separation of racist groups from the prison population, segregated disciplinary and protective custody units, and informal cell assignments by race. In addition, strong peer pressure encourages prisoners to segregate themselves. In prison desegregation decisions, Federal courts have followed the example set for school desegregation by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, despite obvious dissimilarities between schools and prisons. The only Supreme Court decision on racial discrimination in prisons (Washington v. Lee) mandates desegregation without providing guidelines for implementation. Lower Federal court decisions in desegregation cases -- McClelland v. Sigler, Taylor v. Perine, and Thomas v. Pate -- have consistently rejected the security concerns of prison officials and ordered maximum feasible integration. The author argues that Federal court decisions of the 1970's requiring protection of inmates from assaults by fellow inmates should influence desegregation policy. Prison officials may, under some circumstances, have a legal obligation not to assign prisoners to jobs and cells without taking their race into account. As the price of maximum feasible integration may be the derogation of other constitutional rights, society must decide which value has priority. Extensive notes and an appendix summarizing prison desegregation cases from 1959 to 1980 are supplied.
Index Term(s): Corrections management; Inmate segregation; Judicial decisions; Prisoner's rights; Racial discrimination
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