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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98121 Find in a Library
Title: Contemporary Doctrines of Civil Death (From Courts and Criminal Justice, P 155-172, 1985, Susette M Talarico, ed. - See NCJ-98113)
Author(s): G H Cox; D M Speak
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 18
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Examination of contrasting views regarding the rights citizens lose when they become prisoners is accompanied by a discussion of views of courts and prison administrators regarding prisoners' rights and a proposal that the concept of civil death be replaced by the citizenship model.
Abstract: The two distinct trends in defining the status of convicted persons are in opposition to one another. The first holds that on conviction for a serious crime a person ceases to be a legal person in the view of the convicting government. In popular form, this doctrine of civil death holds that violation of a major societal rule means forfeiting one's civil rights. The second approach extends some legal protections to convicted persons, although at a lower level than for ordinary persons. This view regards custody mainly as secure containment and not as part of deprivation of valid citizenship rights. These contradictory views exist side by side in a situation of conceptual confusion. A large body of case law extends a wide variety of protections to convicted persons. However, the current correctional systems in the States have reversed the principle of citizenship to exclude rights other than those recognized or granted by the corrections department. Privacy is almost nonexistent in prisons. Property, personal appearance, communications, and choice are all severely restricted. When rights are conceded to exist, it is on the basis of appeals to external issues rather than on the basis of citizenship accompanied by the holding of rights. Similarly, prisoners do not have the right to work voluntarily and receive benefits from the fruits of one's labors. Most States practice some form of penal servitude. Inmates perform maintenance functions and work in correctional industries for low wages or no wages. Thus, the doctrine of civil death is alive. However, a large body of constitutional, statutory, and case law contradicts this approach, as do administrative considerations in prisons and the philosophical position that the United States should choose maximum freedom rather than maximum restrictions. A list of cases and 18 references are listed.
Index Term(s): Correctional industries; Correctional reform; Prisoner's rights; Right of privacy
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