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NCJ Number: 91383 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Corrections Law Developments - Fire Hazards as Constitutional Torts
Journal: Criminal Law Bulletin  Volume:19  Issue:5  Dated:(September/October 1983)  Pages:456-469
Author(s): J E Robertson
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After examining the constitutional basis of the state's duty to provide inmates with reasonable protection from fire, this study considers the statutory basis for asserting violations of this duty, and the parameters of this duty as set forth in case law emerging from the Federal courts are discussed.
Abstract: Several legal commentators have viewed the Supreme Court's decision in Rhodes v. Chapman as a retreat from judicial activism in prison matters. Deference to State legislatures and prison officials received strong support in Justice Powell's majority opinion that 'courts cannot assume that State legislatures and prison officials are insensitive to the requirements of the Constitution or to the perplexing sociological problems of how best to achieve the goals of the penal function.' The widespread presence of fire hazards in jails and prisons challenges the Court's conclusion. Still, Rhodes v. Chapman has not brought a return to the hands-off doctrine. As the U.S. District Court for Nevada noted, Rhodes does not mandate comfortable prisons but requires 'the minimal measure of life's necessities,' which include adequate shelter, sanitation, food, clothing, medical care, and personal safety. One dimension of personal safety -- protection from fire -- has become a central right of inmates and pretrial detainees. Protection from fire hazards involves planning, training, firefighting equipment, and fire-resistant materials. To retreat from close scrutiny of fire danger would subject incarcerated persons to arbitrary punishment by placing them at risk of serious injury or death for reasons unrelated to detaining the accused or justly punishing the convicted. A total of 114 footnotes are provided. (Author summary modified)
Index Term(s): Fire emergency planning; Inmate personal security; Judicial decisions; Prisoner's rights
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