The Emergence of National Standards
In the debate over whether solitary confinement is beneficial or hostile to prisoner management,legal considerations have received insufficient attention. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that officials have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect prisoners from violence. But to provide reasonable measures to protect safety,officials must be able to control prisoners’ mobility,interaction with other prisoners and capability to harm others. Hands-on methods of control (ie.,grappling,fighting) provide high risk of injury.
Death and Subsequent Litigation
In-custody deaths in jails are unfortunate,but occur for a wide variety of reasons – many outside the control of jail officials. Among the most common causes are:
A. Accidents (e.g.,slip and fall,work-crew accidents);
B. Health issues (e.g.,heart attacks,stokes,seizures,AIDS);
C. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence;
D. Use of force to control prisoners; and
E. Self-harm (e.g.,suicide,self-mutilation,autoerotic asphyxiation)
Until the late 1970s, it was a foregone conclusion that jail officers could strip search all prisoners to further the security of the jail and the safety of staff and prisoners. Then in 1977, a federal District Court in New York ruled that visual body-cavity searches of prisoners in a federal pretrial detention facility were unconstitutional “absent probable cause to believe that the inmate is concealing contraband.”(1) Although the fact seems to have been lost on judges who ruled in later cases that have restricted strip searches of arrestees at booking, the district court actually “upheld the strip search procedure but prohibited [only] the body cavity searches, absent probable cause . . . .”
Part I: The Foundation for an Effective Discipline System
Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series discussing prisoner discipline. Part I,below,will provide hearing officers and other corrections officials with an overview of prisoner discipline and the basic principles for establishing the foundation for an effective and constitutional system for administering prisoner discipline.