The criminal justice system is composed of several categories namely, correction courts, legal counsel and law enforcement. These categories are not independent, but instead, they interact with each other (Cripe, Pearlman, and Kosiak, 2012). Legal issues do not stop with sentencing but proceed into the correctional facilities. This essay will expound on legal matters in correction by looking at prisoner's rights, prisoner's litigation, capital punishment, The eighth amendment, warrants, and DNA collection and the three strike law.
The Three Strike Law
The three Strike law is crucial at leading with habitual offenders who do not conform to the rehabilitation process. The law requires that a person imprisoned for a severe or violent felony, in addition to two eligible felonies, should serve a mandatory life sentence. A significant number of states in the United States have an act dictating a punishment on habitual offenders.
The violent felonies include residential, robbery, kidnapping, rape offenses, child molestation, and murder. The advantage of the three strike law is that it removes potentially violent lawbreakers from the general population. Statistics indicate that 45 percent of convicts are arrested again within 5 years of their release while 77 percent of all inmates are arrested again within the same period (Jefferson and Gaborit, 2015). Moreover, the fact that a smaller percentage of the population account for all violent crime convictions makes the three strike law crucial. The law is also beneficial in that victims of violent crime are accorded a peace of mind as the possibilities of offenders returning are minimal. The law is controversial in that people with three non-violent offences have been given mandatory life sentences. Hemmens argues that when minor crimes qualify for harsh sentences, it is more of a reflection on the society than the offender involved.
The Eighth Amendment
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791, points at three provisions crucial to correction (Cripe et al., 2012)). The Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause that controls severe punishment that the state or federal government may inflict upon persons who are convicted of a criminal offense. The prison environment must not impose unnecessary pain on inmates. The conditions in this context point to a state of affairs alone or in combination with others, that may deny an inmate of the minimally civilized ration of life's necessities. This legal aspect guides on the general principles that should apply in the treatment of persons and the creation and maintenance of the prison environment.
The issues that arise on the side of the prison officials is the state of mind on the part of the official when meting out a punishment. A culpable state of mind is necessary when dealing with disturbances by inmates. Use of excessive force is subject to whether it was applied in good faith or maliciously to cause harm. Conditions partly beyond prison officials or inmates include double celling, rampant violence, infested food, inadequate sanitation, and overcrowding.
Prisoners' rights date back to the 1960s, a period characterized by rights movement. In Jones v. Cunningham, the Supreme Court held that convicts could file a lawsuit challenging their sentencing and condition of their confinement (Campbell, 2014). Consequently, a 1964 ruling in a unanimous vote, upheld that inmates had the right to protection under the Civil Rights Acts of 1871. Rights are central to the capability of prisoners to uphold their humanity and contribute to the flow of information between correction facilities and the outer world hence providing an oversight role over these closed institutions. Some of the rights prisoners access are the rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, among others (Goring, 1984).
Courts have also acknowledged that prisoners have fewer rights than free citizens on the basis that restriction of rights is necessary to sustaining security in prisons. Prisoners have no right to privacy and are subject to warrantless search and seizure. Prisoners' rights concerning ex-felons are also disenfranchised in several ways. For example, ex-felons are prohibited from serving on juries, voting, and working on certain jobs. Moreover, the Meagan Law requires that convicted sex offenders register with law enforcement agencies in their neighbourhood (Jefferson and Gaborit, (2015). It also requires that police inform certain people living around the offender's homes, institutions and the general public of their presence. The Meagan Law raises several ethical issues to pertain an ex-felon's rights.
Capital punishment concerns issues relating to imposition of death as a punishment for crimes committed. The death penalty is allowed in more than half the states as well as the federal government and the US Military. The penalty is imposed on a homicide case that involved acts of crime that are particularly egregious. Cripe et al. (2012) noted that in the Gregg v. Georgia case the court held that the death penalty did not qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. The courts have also held that executing prisoners who mentally sick or juveniles at the time of committing the crime, as unconstitutional.
An argument commonly brought forward against the death penalty is that innocent people may fall victim to a flawed or mistakes committed by the judicial system. Mistakes in such forms of correction cannot be corrected. Hemmens asserts that death penalty legitimizes an irreparable act of violence by the government and will inevitably claim innocent persons.
Death penalty raises the issue of vengeance where homicide offenders are subject to punishment by death. The uniqueness of the retribution in the death penalty is evidenced by the fact that anticipatory suffering criminal experiences outweigh that experienced by their victim.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA)
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), enacted in 1996, placed constraints on the ability of prisoners to file complaints based on the conditions of their confinement. The Act sought to minimise frivolous ligation and permit prison officials to have the ability to rectify problems before ligation (Campbell, 2014). Moreover, the Act sought to lighten the caseload for coughs handling prisoner litigation.
For inmates with grievances, they are encouraged to resolve their complaints through a grievance procedure. If the inmate is not satisfied, they are allowed to file a lawsuit in a federal court. Under PLRA, an inmate cannot file for a mental or emotional injury sustained while in custody without prior evidence of physical hurt. The Act requires that prisoners pay court filing fees in full or installments if filing in forma pauperis. The Act allows for a "three strike ban" that occurs when an inmate's three cases are dismissed for being frivolous or malicious, failure to state a claim that can be granted relief, and failure to pay full file fees.
Consequently, prison officials are prohibited from retaliating on inmates who file suits against them. Retaliation is subject to liability. Critics of the Act argue that it only creates a tangle of administrative procedures that discourage or disqualify inmate from filing cases. They further note that if the prison's grievance system works, it would have provided corrections officials with early warning signs of staff misconduct, deficient medical care, and presence of an unconducive or violent surrounding.
Warrants and Collection of DNA
Warrants and collection of DNA issue have also sparked a set of legal suits. The legal issue around the warrant and collection revolves around the violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment prohibits searches and seizure executed without a warrant or likely cause. In Maryland v. King case, the US supreme court determined that the collection of an arrestee DNA constitutes law enforcement as it aids in the identification and confirmation of persons. The dissenting justice in the case argued that an arrestee is not identified when his DNA matches with an unknown DNA recovered from an unsolved crime scene.
The warrantless search in prison also illustrates a violation of privacy. In Hudson v. Palmer, the US supreme court held that the Fourth Amendment does not safeguard prisoners from searches of their personal property by correctional officers. Goring argues that prisoners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy entitling them to protection by the fourth amendment. Moreover, she asserts that the intentional deprivation of property on an inmate cushions the state against litigation arising from property loss and consequent right violation.
In conclusion, the paper has expounded on the legal issues affecting correction. The paper has examined legal issues affecting the inmates, correctional officers and the state concerning correction. Though the paper has not addressed all the legal issues in correction, it has touched on the significant and regular issues faced in the day to day running of correctional facilities.
Campbell, T. (2014, November 24). Cases and Legal Issues in Corrections. Retrieved from http://www.corrections.com/news/article/38098-cases-and-legal-issues-in-correctionsReferences
Cripe, C. A., Pearlman, M. G., & Kosiak, D. (2012). Legal Aspects of Corrections Management. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.Goring, D. C. (1984). Fourth Amendment. Prison Cells: Is There a Right to Privacy? The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 75(3), 609. doi:10.2307/1143635
Hemmens, C. (2004). Introduction: Legal Issues in Corrections. The Prison Journal, 84(3), 287-289. doi:10.1177/0032885504268176
Jefferson, A. M., & Gaborit, L. S. (2015). Introducing Human Rights in Prisons. Human Rights in Prisons, 1-25. doi:10.1057/9781137433770_1
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