Throughout the current period of prison history, known as the period of mass incarceration, the United States has been “the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails – a 500% increase over the last forty years” (Sentencing Project, 2018). This dramatic increase in prison populations over such a short period of time, coupled with the fact that prisons have been brought out from isolation and into the public view, has created an influx of nationally recognized concerns.
Review the following short introductions to several of those concerns and select 2 concerns to address in your paper.
Adequate Medical Attention:
In Estelle V. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), the Supreme Court ruled that all incarcerated persons have a right to receive “adequate” medical attention. The failure of the state to provide such attention constitutes a violation of the Eight Amendment; namely, the cruel and unusual punishment clause. In a short article for Health Law Perspectives, Conway (2009), examines the concept of deliberate indifference as related to Estelle. As well, he discusses the conflicts that many people feel when they, as law abiding, tax paying citizens, cannot afford health insurance or to see a medical provider when needed, yet a convicted felon is given free and frequent access to medical services often times without being charged.
The United States Supreme Court has not banned the use of Administrative Segregation in American prisons or other places of confinement. Rather, in general, the use of such is still at the discretion of each individual state. Many correctional administrators within those states argue that administrative segregation housing is an absolute necessity. It allows agencies to maintain safe prison systems by removing the most violent or incorrigible offenders from the general population. Thus giving those offenders who wish to take advantage of programmatic and rehabilitative services the opportunity to do so. However, recently Supreme Court Justice Kennedy began to question the constitutionality of solitary confinement and administrative segregation. Furthermore, in light of the psychological and behavioral effects often attributed to long term segregated housing, there is a growing social concern over its use as a permanent management tool.
Correctional officials are often required to use force to prevent serious and imminent harm, as well as to maintain the safety and security of the correctional facility. In Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), the Supreme Court noted that if “force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline,” then it does not constitute an Eight Amendment violation of cruel and unusual punishment. In Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992), however, the Court qualified their response to ensure that the use of excessive force is clearly recognized as unconstitutional.
Risk of Suicide:
While the Supreme Court has not specifically addressed the duty of correctional staff to prevent offender suicides, the concept of deliberate indifference, as established under Estelle, has routinely been applied in correctional suicide cases. Most courts have agreed that inside the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eight Amendment, correctional staff have an obligation to sincerely try to prevent offenders from hurting themselves.
Post-conviction DNA testing is of great importance to both the State and to offenders, but for entirely two different reasons. The federal government, as well as most states, have passed laws requiring the collection of offenders’ genetic information upon arrest or conviction. This information is then stored in a national database for later use by law enforcement agencies. By 2010, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) of offenders within these bases amounted to more than 8.7 million people. In many states, offenders convicted prior to the development of a state mandated DNA collection systems either do not have their DNA, or the crime scene DNA, on file. Alternatively, when some of these offenders were convicted, DNA testing was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. Hence, offenders often request post-conviction DNA tests in an effort to prove their innocence. However, in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52 (2009), the Supreme Court ruled that offenders do not have a constitutional right to demand DNA testing of state evidence previously used to convict them.
Referencing at least three credible sources and using proper APA format and guidelines, submit a 5-6 page paper that addresses each of the topics below listed for your 2 selected concerns.
Adequate Medical Attention:
Summarizes the facts of Estelle v. Gamble (1976)
Pursuant to Estelle, incarcerated persons have a right to receive “adequate” medical attention. Define “adequate.” In practical terms, what does that mean?
Define “deliberate indifference.”
Do you agree with the Estelle decision? Why or why not?
Discuss your views on Administrative Segregation.
Describe what Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) means to you.
Do you believe being placed in Ad Seg creates negative psychological or behavioral effects?
Do you see the use of Ad Seg as an effective management tool to help control prison violence? Or do you see it as excessive punishment used as a backdoor disciplinary tactic? Why?
Do you have an alternative suggestion for managing aggressive or disruptive offenders?
Does your state correctional system currently use Administrative Segregation as an offender management tool? If so, discuss how your state agency applies its use.
Summarize the facts of Whitley v. Albers (1986)
Summarize the facts of Hudson v. McMillian (1992)
Define excessive force as related to Hudson
Compare and contrast the application of force between police and correctional officers.
Risk of Suicide:
Discuss offender suicide risks.
Discuss correctional staff obligations to prevent suicides under Estelle’s deliberate indifference ruling.
Discuss the facts and findings of two recent correctional cases involving offender suicides or suicide attempts.
According to the ruling within District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52 (2009), prisoners do not have the right to DNA testing.
Do you agree with this decision?
If you agree, what do you think about offenders who are innocent and their wrongful convictions?
If you disagree, what do you think about the necessary resources to accommodate prisoners with their DNA testing requests?
Discuss the costs, manpower, time, and resources needed.
If a prisoner DNA test proves that a prisoner has been wrongfully convicted, then should the prisoner be compensated?
To what extent, if any, do you feel it is necessary to compensate wrongfully convicted prisoners?
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