Monday, June 13, 2005

Today's Supreme Court decisions

Wilkinson v. Austin is a prisoner's rights case regarding whether the procedure (or lack thereof) for assignments to Supermax prisons violates the Due Process Clause.

Conditions at OSP are more restrictive than any other form of incarceration in Ohio, including conditions on its death row or in its administrative control units. The latter are themselves a highly restrictive form of solitary confinement. See Austin I, supra, 724—725, and n. 5 (citing Ohio Admin. Code §5120—9—13 (2001) (rescinded 2004)). In the OSP almost every aspect of an inmate’s life is controlled and monitored. Inmates must remain in their cells, which measure 7 by 14 feet, for 23 hours per day. A light remains on in the cell at all times, though it is sometimes dimmed, and an inmate who attempts to shield the light to sleep is subject to further discipline. During the one hour per day that an inmate may leave his cell, access is limited to one of two indoor recreation cells.

Incarceration at OSP is synonymous with extreme isolation. In contrast to any other Ohio prison, including any segregation unit, OSP cells have solid metal doors with metal strips along their sides and bottoms which prevent conversation or communication with other inmates. All meals are taken alone in the inmate’s cell instead of in a common eating area. Opportunities for visitation are rare and in all events are conducted through glass walls. It is fair to say OSP inmates are deprived of almost any environmental or sensory stimuli and of almost all human contact.

Aside from the severity of the conditions, placement at OSP is for an indefinite period of time, limited only by an inmate’s sentence. For an inmate serving a life sentence, there is no indication how long he may be incarcerated at OSP once assigned there. Austin I, supra, at 740. Inmates otherwise eligible for parole lose their eligibility while incarcerated at OSP. 189 F. Supp. 2d, at 728.

The never-ending Miller-El v. Dretke case, granting habeas relief on a Batson claim. Texas sucks.

Bradshaw v. Stumpf is a Sixth Amendment case that I'm not familiar with but caught my attention. It appears as though there was some dispute as to whether the defendant was fully aware of what exactly he pled to. Additionally, the prosecution proceeded against the defendants (capital case) on potentially inconsistent theories.

The Supreme Court reiterated Batson again in Johnson v. California, overturning a state Supreme Court decision because it placed an inappropriate burden on the defendant.

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