Articles Tagged with prison

Last month, it was reported by CNN that the unsympathetic Dylann Roof, the accused shooter in Charleston, was attacked and beaten on his way to the shower in Charleston County Detention Center. Roof made headlines last year when he was arrested for his racially motivated massacre of nine black churchgoers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in North Carolina.

Although he is currently in protective custody, Roof, 22, was vulnerable because only one guard was in the area and he was fetching toilet tissue for another inmate. That allowed another inmate, 25-year-old Dwayne Stafford, to run down the stairs from his cell into the protective custody unit and sucker punch Roof. It is reported the detention officer quickly responded and separated the two. There were no weapons involved, and the injuries Roof faced were minor – bruising on the face and back.

It is not surprising that the nature of his crimes make Roof vulnerable to attacks, and that is why he is under protective custody in the prison where he awaits trial. His murder trial is set to start at the end of January, and there are already three federal courtrooms dedicated to it. Roof currently faces nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and gun charges.

What is Protective Custody?

Protective custody in prison is a type of imprisonment intended to protect an inmate from harm, either from outside sources or other prisoners. Inmates have the right to request protective custody if they believe that the environment they are living in is harmful to their well-being. They can make this request at any time if they feel their physical safety threatened. Corrections officers then keep the inmate making the request locked up and unable to leave until the request is granted. The request may be granted if officials decide that the inmate is truly at risk. Once ‘protected,’ an inmate is typically segregated from the rest of the prison population.

Ideally, inmates under protective custody are housed in a stand-alone unit, with their own eating facilities, shower areas, recreation yards, and visiting rooms. Doctors and staffers visit the unit so the prisoner does not have to travel. Protective custody units have numerous cameras and guards, and can have anywhere from 10 to 100 inmates. Continue reading

Ammon and Ryan Bundy have filed for an administrative hearing over what they claim are ‘deplorable and unconstitutional’ conditions. According to the document filed by their attorneys, the Bundys argue that their first amendment rights are being violated because they are not free to assemble nor practice their mormon religion by engaging in religious activities or wear religious garments. They further allege that they are “being denied access to materials and resources reasonably required to defend their respective cases.” Perhaps more surprisingly, the Bundys are also alleging a violation of the second amendment rights because guns are not allowed in jails for prisoners. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, they are considering suing the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to get possession of their weapons.

Rights of Prisoners

It is obvious that prisoners have fewer rights and freedoms while incarcerated. Some rights, however, are still guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The eighth amendment prohibits conditions for prisoners that would be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment, although that term was not clearly defined at the time of the Constitution’s signing. Generally, any type of treatment that would reasonably be considered inhumane and in violation of basic human dignity would violate constitutional law.

Prisoners are also supposed to enjoy certain first amendment protections, such as the freedom of religion. However, they do not have the same level of rights as free citizens. Rights such as ‘protesting’ or ‘assembling’ may be restricted under Rational Basis Review. This just means that there is a “valid, rational connection” between the prison regulation and the legitimate government interest put forward to justify it. Such regulations are not considered unconstitutional as long as the regulations apply to all inmates in a neutral fashion.

Lastly, all inmates at the state and federal level have the right to:

  • Be free from sexual harassment and assault;
  • Be free from racial segregation (unless deemed necessary for the safety of prisoners); and
  • Receive adequate medical care.  

Unfortunately many of these freedoms are violated regularly. Continue reading

In a new coalition called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration created by 130 police chiefs, prosecutors, and sheriffs, lawmakers from across the nation recently met in Washington, D.C. to address criminal justice reform. The coalition met with President Obama to figure out ways to push for alternatives to arrests, restore balance to criminal laws, reform mandatory minimum prison sentences, and strengthen community law enforcement relationships.   

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was amongst the leaders to join the coalition to develop ways to safely reduce the nation’s incarceration rate. According to the group, the “incarceration rate in the United States has reached a crisis point.” The group specifically pointed to the changes needed to be made to keep low-level offenders or the mentally ill out of the system. The push for reform comes as law enforcement nationwide has tried to restore its relationship with the community in the face of the disparate impacts that incarceration has on communities of color.

Some of the focus areas the coalition has identified include: