Thursday, March 31, 2005

Criminals Upset Over Being In Prison (Tearjerker)

From the "Call The Waahhhmbulance" file (and the Post-Gazette) comes this Supreme Court story.

WASHINGTON -- Ohio's Attorney General Jim Petro yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse two lower federal courts and uphold his state's procedures for transferring prisoners to a "super-maximum-security" prison, where they endure long periods of solitary confinement and little opportunity for exercise.

Calling the decision to move prisoners to the 500-bed Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown a decision that reflects both their past misconduct and future dangerousness, Petro said: "The government needs to have the capacity and ability to make the best possible decision in light of all possible factors."

But University of Pittsburgh law professor Jules Lobel, representing a group of Ohio inmates, told the justices that the state's revised procedures for approving transfers to the "supermax" facility give prisoners only vague notice of why they are being subjected to as many as three years in solitary confinement -- such as a suspicion that the inmate is a gang leader.

Lobel summarized the explanation given to prisoners in the past as: "I'm putting you in there, and I'm not giving you a reason." Under the Constitution's guarantee of due process, he said, a prisoner is entitled to a summary of the reasons for his transfer that is "detailed enough for him to reply."

Lobel asked the court to affirm a ruling by 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati requiring the Ohio prison system to provide a prisoner with written notice of the reason for a transfer to "supermax"; to allow the prisoner to call witnesses at a transfer hearing; and to advise the prisoner of what he must do to be returned to the general population.

In a hearing in which both justices and lawyers struggled to distinguish between different versions of Ohio's rules -- both of which have been shelved by lower federal courts -- a majority of the court seemed inclined to give the state the benefit of the doubt.

When Lobel suggested that prisoners were given only a vague explanation of why they were reclassified as maximum-security inmates, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor protested: "I mean, this is a prison classification, for goodness' sake!"

Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the court had to choose between two views of a 6th Circuit decision finding fault with Ohio's transfer policy, which was revised during litigation. Either the lower-court decision was a "remedy" for abuses under the Ohio prison system's earlier transfer policy, or it was a forward-looking judgment regarding the language of the revised policy. Justice Stephen Breyer seemed inclined to take the latter view.

Noting that the revised policy did provide inmates with some explanation for their transfer, Breyer asked Lobel why the court shouldn't uphold the revised policy against the inmates' challenge and consider future claims of unfairness on a case-by-case basis.

Gee, so I guess being in prison kind of sucks now... Isn't that a shame? Doesn't your heart just totally go out to these crooks for having to endure a hard stint in a Supermax facility? How are they supposed to illegally traffic drugs, rape other inmates, and conduct gang business?! It's not fair. I wish somebody would stand up for the right of these criminals to have a positive and fulfilling prison experience and not be separated from their gangs and drugs. If only Johnny Cochran were alive, he'd do the right thing and help out these poor, defenseless, and personable criminals...

I need a tissue....


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