remainder of this overview discusses the numerous issues that commonly
arise in institutional litigation on behalf of confined youth. Together
the issues can be referred to using the acronym CHAPTERS. This acronym
is an easy way to remember the following eight major areas of
Classification and separation issues.
Health and mental health care. |
Access to counsel, the courts, and family members.
Programming, education, and recreation.
Training and supervision of institutional staff.
Environment, sanitation, overcrowding, and privacy.
Restraints, isolation, punishment, and due process.
Safety issues for staff and confined youth.
Classification & Separation
on classification issues has addressed the separation of, or failure to
separate, adult and juvenile inmates under a number of conditions,
including segregation of violent or aggressive adult inmates, separation
by age (e.g., the JJDPA sight and sound separation requirements),
improper separation by gender or race, and separation of inmates with
of individuals with violent propensities. Much of the case law on classification involves claims by young or
vulnerable adult inmates who were physically or sexually assaulted by
inmates known to be criminally sophisticated, dangerous, violent, or
aggressive. Adult inmates have the right to be protected from the threat
of violence and sexual assault. If officials know of an inmate's
vulnerability, they have an obligation not to act with deliberate or
reckless indifference to that vulnerability. Counties or supervisory
officials, as well as institutional staff, may be liable if their
policies or customs (e.g., on jail overcrowding or handling of
particular categories of inmates) amount to deliberate indifference to
inmates' security needs (see Smith v. Wade, Withers v. Levine, Woodhouse
v. Virginia, Stokes v. Delcambre, Nelson v. Overberg, Redman v. County
of San Diego, and Hale v. Tallapoosa County).
principles apply to incarcerated youth who have the right to be free
from unreasonable threats to their physical safety. Facilities must have
a system for screening and separating aggressive juveniles from more
passive ones and for determining appropriate levels of institutional
classification (see Alexander S. v. Boyd). The failure to protect
children from the sexual aggressiveness of other confined juveniles may
result in liability (see Guidry v. Rapides Parish School Board).
and sound separation/removal of children from adult jails/deinstitutionalization
of status offenders:
JJDPA requires sight and sound separation of juveniles held under
state juvenile court jurisdiction (and juveniles younger than age 18
under federal court jurisdiction) from adults in jails and lockups. The
act does not apply to youth in adult facilities who are being prosecuted
as adults in state court. In many adult facilities, impermissible
contacts occur during admission to the facility, transportation to
court, mealtime, and cleaning of living units.
jails that separate juveniles from adults may run afoul of other
constitutional protections because juveniles are typically isolated for
long periods, without access to institutional programs and services.
This situation led Congress to amend the act in 1980. Thus, federal
regulations permit delinquent children to be held in lockups for only a
limited number of hours before and after court hearings.
Classification and separation of adult inmates may not be used to
justify unequal program opportunities for one gender. Thus, educational,
recreational, and vocational training programs for female inmates must
be equivalent to those available to males (see Glover v. Johnson,
Mitchell v. Untreiner, Cantarino v.Wilson, and Women Prisoners of the
District of Columbia Department of Corrections v. District of Columbia).
Compliance with this requirement is often a problem in institutions that
house more men than women and that do not adequately provide for
females' participation in courses, work opportunities, and recreational
programs. Similar situations arise in juvenile facilities housing both
female and male youth.
Classification, housing assignments, and job assignments that result in
patterns of racial disparity may violate the 14th amendment (see
Santiago v. Miles). Although facilities may take racial tensions into
account when maintaining security, discipline, and order, they may not
simply segregate the populations based on race (see Lee v. Washington,
Jones v. Diamond, and White v. Morris).
of inmates for health reasons.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that, at the end of
1994, approximately 2.4 percent of male inmates and 3.9 percent of
female inmates in adult correctional facilities were HIV positive. There
are limited statistical data on the numbers of confined youth who are
HIV positive, but the incidence of high-risk, unprotected sexual
activity and intravenous drug use suggests that the rate may be even
higher for detained youth.
surprisingly, a growing interest in classification litigation involves
the treatment of inmates who are HIV positive. Issues commonly litigated
include segregation (specifically the right to equivalent programming,
access to the outside world, and services if segregated), mandatory
testing, confidentiality, and medical treatment for HIV/AIDS (see Harris
v. Thigpen and Anderson v. Romero).
existing case law helps to describe the relevant issues relating to
HIV/AIDS, the decisions from various jurisdictions are inconsistent
(compare Camarillo v. McCarthy and Moore v. Mabus, which found that segregation
of inmates who are HIV positive violates the constitution; and
Zaczek v. Murray, which affirmed a lower court holding that segregation
and mandatory testing are not required by the constitution, with Doe
v. Coughlin, which found that segregation of inmates who are HIV
positive violates constitutional privacy rights). Soler (1993)
offers a discussion of recent case law. To some degree, these decisions
reflect the evolving state of medical knowledge on the treatment of
HIV/AIDS and corresponding changes in public health policy about
confidentiality, testing, and practices for reducing the risk of
transmission. Juvenile detention centers must have thoughtful policies
on all aspects of confining persons who may be HIV positive.
and dental care.
Inmates are constitutionally entitled to medical care, including both
screening and direct service. Institutions may not interfere with access
to medical care or interfere with prescribed treatment for illness.
Deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of adult inmates
violates the eighth amendment (see Estelle v. Gamble and Boretti v.
Wiscomb). For example, the medical care system violated constitutional
standards in Ramos v. Lamm, in which there were fewer than 10 hours per
week of onsite physician care for an entire prison, overuse of
physicians' substitutes, and use of inmates to deliver medical services.
Budgetary constraints may not be used to justify a denial of necessary
medical care (see Jones v. Johnson). Similarly, a substantial delay in
medical treatment may result in a finding that medical care was
constitutionally inadequate (see Durmer v. O'Carroll).
facility should have a screening mechanism for inmates. The screening
should be done by a doctor or another professional who has had medical
training. Many jails and lockups have a nonmedical person performing
this task. This situation is not satisfactory and may result in a
medical tragedy. Also, someone on staff must have the authority to
transfer a seriously ill inmate to another medical facility (see Colle
v. Brazos County, Texas).
addition to screening, facilities must provide adequate medical services
and access to medical supplies such as eyeglasses (Williams v. I.C.C.
Committee), prescription medicines (Gerakeris v. Champagne), wheelchairs
(Weeks v. Chaboudy), special diets (Coades v. Jeffes), and dental care
(Boyd v. Knox). In the adult system, cases have involved health-related
claims that facilities have failed to make reasonable modifications to
serve inmates with disabilities pursuant to the Americans With
Disabilities Act of 1990 and claims that inmates have been denied the
benefits of institutional programs because of a handicap under the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Children and adult inmates are constitutionally entitled to
adequate mental health care. For the components of a minimally adequate
mental health system see Ruiz v. Estelle. Ramos v. Lamm found that
mental health services in an adult prison were grossly inadequate where
5 to 10 percent of inmates were mentally ill and 10 to 25 percent needed
mental health treatment; a psychiatrist visited the prison only twice in
the year before trial, and there was a 2- to 5-week wait for services
from mental health staff. Similarly, Coleman v. Wilson found
constitutional violations where a prison system failed to provide a
systematic program for screening and evaluating inmates' mental health
needs; a treatment program that involved more than segregation and close
supervision of mentally ill inmates; access to a sufficient number of
trained mental health professionals; maintenance of accurate, complete,
and confidential mental health records; administration of psychotropic
medication with appropriate supervision and periodic evaluation; and a
basic program to identify, treat, and supervise inmates at risk for
suicide (see Madrid v. Gomez for components of adequate institutional
mental health services).
detained youth are mentally ill or suffer from severe emotional
disturbances. Sometimes confinement adds to their disturbance.
Therefore, facilities must screen minors for mental health problems,
provide emergency psychological services, establish procedures for
dealing with suicidal youngsters, make sure that medications are
prescribed and administered by qualified medical personnel, establish
provisions for children to request psychological care, and make sure
that there is adequate staff for ongoing psychological services.
cases addressing mental health needs of detained children include Thomas
v. Mears, Gary W. v. State of Louisiana, Morales v. Turman, Martarella
v. Kelley, Morgan v. Sproat, and Ahrens v. Thomas. The use of drugs for
behavior control is constitutionally prohibited (see Nelson v. Heyne and
Pena v. New York State Division for Youth). Jackson v. Fort Stanton
State Hospital & Training School includes a discussion of the
Youngberg v. Romeo standard in relation to developmentally disabled
cases involving general mental health care in institutions, there are
cases involving suicides and other harm to prisoners based on the
indifference of officials to known mental health needs. Many cases
involve suicides. Buffington v. Baltimore City deals with the liability
of two police officers who knew that a detainee was on the verge of
suicide but failed to follow department policy for the care of suicidal
inmates; Simmons v. City of Philadelphia addresses holding the city
liable for indifference to the medical needs of an intoxicated adult
detainee who committed suicide; Hare v. City of Corinth, Mississippi
treats refusing qualified immunity to jail officials for placing a
suicidal inmate in an isolated cell that was not visually monitored
despite a recent suicide and failing to have onsite staff with a key who
could open the door once the inmate was seen hanging; Heflin v. Stewart
County, Tennessee holds that the jury should have been permitted to
decide whether the jail staff's failure to cut down a hanging inmate
until photos had been taken (when evidence suggested that the inmate may
have been alive) was deliberate indifference; Hall v. Ryan reverses the
dismissal of a case in which evidence suggested that the defendants knew
of the inmate's suicidal condition because of past encounters with the
police department or were recklessly indifferent in failing to consult
his file after observing his wild behavior; and Cabrales v. County of
Los Angeles holds that a county could be liable for deliberate
indifference when its policy of understaffing institutional mental
health services contributed to the suicide of an inmate placed in
isolation after a suicide attempt.
suicide cases demonstrate the need for thorough mental health screening
by trained staff, policies governing the supervision and treatment of
suicidal and at-risk inmates, and the availability of mental health
services, particularly for detained children.
Access To Others:
refers to a minor's right of access to family members and important
people in his or her life. It also refers to access to the legal system.
Minors have a right to reasonable access, and the cases that have
addressed this issue discuss the standard of reasonableness in
particular situations. The rules on mail access are more specific.
experience of being incarcerated is traumatic for youth, particularly
when placed in an adult facility. Youth need the emotional support of
their family, and access to the community may be critical to the success
of court intervention. Thus, in D.B. v. Tewksbury the court found that
children confined in a jail were deprived of their constitutional rights
when they were denied regular visits, use of the telephone, and mail
services. The court found that these restrictions needlessly intensified
children's fears and hostilities and were counterproductive to the goals
of the juvenile justice system.
Institutions housing children must provide for reasonable visitation.
Visits should be permitted during the day, with provisions for
alternative visiting times for parents who are unable to visit during
the normal hours. Approved visitors should include adult relatives,
family friends, and siblings with approval from the minor's probation
officer or counselor.
punitive attitudes, understaffing, and limited visiting areas have
restricted visiting opportunities for children. The right to reasonable
visitation has been litigated in a number of juvenile cases, including
Ahrens v. Thomas, Thomas v. Mears, Gary W. v. State of Louisiana, and
D.B. v. Tewksbury. Visitation should not be curtailed because of
overcrowding or staff shortages, according to Patchette v. Nix.
Case law does not set an absolute requirement for telephone use
but insists a facility must provide reasonable access to telephones.
Calls may be made to parents, relatives, and attorneys. Monitoring may
occur only if justified. Limited staffing and few public telephones
often result in undue restrictions on children's ability to make
telephone calls from jails and lockups. Juvenile cases addressing
telephone use include Gary W. v. State of Louisiana and Ahrens v.
access. There are
two categories of mail: privileged and nonprivileged. Privileged mail is
between the child and his or her attorney, a judge, a legislator, or
some other public official and is usually designated as such (e.g.,
"legal mail") on the envelope. Privileged mail may not be
opened by staff, except to inspect it for contraband according to Wolff
v. McDonnell. Nonprivileged mail is all other mail and may be opened
under certain circumstances to inspect for contraband or criminal
activity. Even then, staff must have facts to support their suspicions.
If mail is
to be read, the individual must be given an opportunity to appeal to
someone other than the person who suspects the correspondence (see
Procunier v. Martinez). The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted only
limited restrictions on inmate mail. Turner v. Safley addresses
correspondence between adult inmates at different correctional
institutions; Thornburgh v. Abbott deals with rejection of publications
found detrimental to institutional security; and Ramos v. Lamm addresses
a ruling that struck down prohibition of correspondence in another
language in an institution where one-third of the institutional
population was Hispanic.
to the courts.
Correctional facilities must ensure that inmates have meaningful
access to both counsel and the courts (see Younger v. Gilmore). In
Bounds v. Smith, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the provision of
adequate libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the
law would meet the constitutional requirement and that facilities should
explore various avenues such as volunteer or legal services attorneys,
law students, inmate paralegals, or public defenders to meet this
requirement. More recently, in Lewis v. Casey the Court explained that
inmates require the tools to argue their sentences or to challenge the
conditions of their confinement. The rights of illiterate or
non-English-speaking inmates might necessitate the provision of special
cases found constitutional violations where prison library systems
imposed hurdles to access (see Toussaint v. McCarthy). Also, courts have
held that prisons that offer paralegal assistance as an alternative to
providing direct library access must provide trained legal assistants,
and inmates must be supplied with a reasonable amount of office
materials for court filing of documents (see Gluth v. Kangas, Knop v.
Johnson, and Ward v. Kort). However, the Court emphasized, in Lewis v.
Casey, that constitutional violations must be measured in relation to
actual, not theoretical, injuries caused by the inadequacies of
libraries or other legal assistance.
visits with attorneys must be allowed upon reasonable request. Keker v.
Procunier and Adams v. Carlson address the duty of institutions to keep
lines of communication open among inmates, attorneys, and the courts.
The sixth amendment also includes the right of reasonable access to
attorneys to challenge unlawful conditions and seek redress of
constitutional rights under Procunier v. Martinez. Inmates must also be
allowed to meet with attorneys on civil matters according to U.S. v.
Janis and Corpus v. Estelle.
Supreme Court has never expressly ruled on the right to treatment for
juveniles, and lower court cases have ruled ambiguously on this issue.
The Court has recognized a right to treatment for mentally retarded
adults who, like children, are confined for treatment without their
consent (see Youngberg v. Romeo). In addition, a number of courts have
found a right to treatment in juvenile institutional cases. In Alexander
S. v. Boyd, the court found a constitutional right to a minimally
adequate level of programming designed to teach juveniles the principles
essential to correct their behavior.
Inmates are constitutionally entitled to fresh air and regular
exercise (see Spain v. Procunier). In adult prisons, restriction to two
1-hour exercise periods per week has been held to violate the eighth
amendment (see Sweet v. South Carolina and Spain v. Procunier). Where
there is substantial access to indoor recreation areas, up to 18 hours
per day, according to Clay v. Miller, there may be a finding of no
violation, but such substantial alternatives often do not exist. Where
the adult inmate is in disciplinary segregation, the institution must
still explore ways to provide regular exercise and may restrict it only
in exceptional circumstances (see Mitchell v. Rice).
courts have made it clear that children in correctional facilities are
entitled to the benefit of special education laws under Green v. Johnson
and Donnell C. v. Illinois State Board of Education. Children eligible
for special education are entitled to a broad range of assessment,
evaluation, educational, and related services under the Individuals With
Disabilities Education Act. Federal time lines for assessment and
implementation apply, even when the child is in temporary detention (see
U.S. Office of Civil Rights, Solano County Juvenile Hall, California,
Case No. 09-89-1227 and Nick O. v. Terhune). Institutions confining
children must also refrain from discriminating against educationally
handicapped children under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Facilities housing children or adult inmates must accommodate
religious observances. The traditional view was that religious practices
must be allowed provided they did not jeopardize the security of the
institution (see Cruz v. Beto). In recent years, the Court has taken a
narrower view, holding that limitations on the exercise of religion are
permissible if they are related to a legitimate penological objective
(see O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz). However, the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act of 1993 appears to restore a higher standard of legal
scrutiny. The government must show a "compelling interest"
before impinging on religious practices and use the least restrictive
means of regulation.
Children may be required to clean their cells or living areas but cannot
be forced to do chores for the personal benefit of staff or be exploited
for their labor. Limited case law specifically relates to children on
this issue, but the legal theory is clear. People who have not been
convicted of a crime may not be punished under the due process
principles articulated in Bell v. Wolfish. By analogy to the forced
labor cases involving mentally ill patients, Johnson v. Cicone and Tyler
v. Harris found that inappropriate work requirements may violate the
13th amendment or provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act
(see Weidenfeller v. Kidulis, Souder v. Brennan, Wyatt v. Stickney, and
Wyatt v. Aderholt).
past decade, courts have ruled on the liability of institutional
administrators and supervisors for a wide range of conduct relating to
the hiring, training, supervising, assigning, directing, and retaining
of staff. Liability may be imposed if supervisors hire unqualified
people, fail to train staff adequately, fail to supervise staff on the
job, fail to provide staff with formal policy and procedural guidelines,
or fail to fire unfit staff. These issues typically arise in cases where
injuries or death have occurred and staff have not been trained to
handle suicidal children or medical emergencies.
properly hire or train personnel may constitute indifference to the
rights or safety of others and may support liability for punitive
damages under Smith v. Wade. This case is particularly relevant where
there is a governmental pattern of deliberate indifference resulting in
injury to the plaintiff (see Partridge v. Two Unknown Police Officers of
the City of Houston, Texas, and McKenna v. City of Memphis). The right
to properly trained staff is well established. Thus, in Garrett v.
Rader, where the plaintiff's developmentally disabled daughter died in
restraints administered by untrained staff, the defendants were not
permitted to claim qualified immunity.
of Canton, Ohio, v. Harris, a failure to train employees may also form
the basis for municipal liability in federal civil rights litigation.
The issue is whether the training program is adequate and, if it is not,
whether the inadequate training can justifiably be said to represent
city policy. Thus, in Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, the city's policy
or custom of not training its officers to deal with suicidal inmates
amounted to deliberate indifference to inmates' serious medical needs.
Similarly, Gobel v. Maricopa County holds that a government entity may
be liable for the failure to train properly its employees if there is a
connection between the violation of civil rights and the inadequate
training (see Davis v. Mason County and Young v. Augusta, Georgia).
and inhumane environmental conditions may violate inmates' rights under
the 8th and 14th amendments (see Hoptowit v. Spellman, McCord v. Maggio,
Jones v. Diamond, and Carver v. Knox County, Tennessee). Environmental
issues may arise if children are housed in inadequate, dilapidated, or
unhygienic physical surroundings (see Inmates of Boys Training School v.
Affleck, Ahrens v. Thomas, and Thomas v. Mears).
There should be no sewage backup in sleeping quarters, and the area
should be free of insects and rodents. The living area should be clean
and comply with local and state sanitation regulations. Thus, Ramos v.
Lamm found constitutional violations at a prison with poor ventilation,
fungus and mold, poor drainage, sewage accumulation, rodent and insect
infestation, missing tiles/hard-to-clean bathroom areas, exposed wiring,
broken windows, inadequate laundry facilities, deteriorating conditions,
and inadequate maintenance. Along the same line, McCord v. Maggio held
that lack of funds was not a justification for requiring inmates to live
in cells where sewage backup created squalid and unsanitary conditions.
Children in custody should be provided with adequate supplies for
personal hygiene and should be given an opportunity to shower daily,
change their clothing reasonably often, and have fresh bed linens on a
weekly basis under Ahrens v. Thomas and Inmates of Boys Training School
Institutions housing children must provide a balanced diet, with
three meals each day and snacks at night. Food should be prepared in
accord with public health standards. Food should not be old or moldy;
there should not be evidence of insects, rodents, or bad sanitation; and
inmate workers should be trained in food preparation and storage (see
Ramos v. Lamm). Food should never be withheld from children for
disciplinary reasons (see Ahrens v. Thomas and Inmates of Boys Training
School v. Affleck).
heating, and cooling.
Housing inmates in units with inadequate ventilation and air flow
is unconstitutional according to Hopowit v. Spellman and Brock v. Warren
County, Tennessee. Inadequate ventilation, heating, and cooling may
violate inmates' constitutional right to adequate shelter under Ramos v.
Lamm, Ahrens v. Thomas, Henderson v. De Robertis, and Del Raine v.
Williford. The Court has also recognized that involuntary exposure to
unreasonable environmental tobacco smoke may violate the constitution
(see Helling v. McKinney).
safety. This is a
critical area since failure to adequately provide for fire safety may be
a matter of life or death (see Hopowit v. Spellman). The facility must
have smoke-monitoring devices, a written evacuation plan with posted
diagrams for inmates and staff, at least two fire escape routes, fire
extinguishers, and lights marking the fire exits (see Ahrens v. Thomas).
The courts have not required specific levels of candle power, but
professional standards require that lighting be sufficient for detainees
to comfortably read books in their cells without eyestrain (see Hopowit
v. Spellman, Ramos v. Lamm, McCord v. Maggio, and Jones v. Diamond).
Juvenile cases addressing lighting include Ahrens v. Thomas and Inmates
of Boys Training School v. Affleck.
have a right to clean clothing under Inmates of Boys Training School
v.Affleck. Clothing should be appropriate for the season, and children
should be able to wear clothing similar to that worn by children in the
community (see Thomas v. Mears). Also, restrictions on personal
appearance that are unrelated to penological interests may violate
prisoners' privacy rights (see Quinn v. Nix on striking down a
prohibition on shag hairstyles).
This is a critical issue because it is related to so many others. The
effects of overcrowding permeate every aspect of institutional
operation, including health issues, education, suicidal and assaultive
behavior, and overreliance on restraints and disciplinary measures.
Under the constitutional standard, the due process clause is violated
where children are held under conditions that amount to punishment (see
Gary H. v. Hegstrom and Bell v. Wolfish).
measuring overcrowding against constitutional standards, the courts look
not at overcrowding per se
but at its impact upon conditions in the institution. Rhodes v. Chapman
stands for the proposition that double- celling itself is not
unconstitutional but that it is a factor to be taken into account with
other prison conditions affecting essential needs (see Wilson v. Seiter).
Thus, in Nami v. Fauver juveniles in the administrative segregation unit
of a youth correctional facility could claim constitutional violations
when they were double-celled in poorly ventilated, 80-square-foot rooms
with only one bed, with violent or psychologically disturbed felons who
abused them. Similarly, in Hall v. Dalton the court found constitutional
inadequacies in a city jail where an adult inmate spent 40 days in a
windowless, two-person cell that held four, with only 14 square feet per
person, where meals were served in the cells, where there was little
opportunity for exercise, and where the inmates had to sleep on the
floor (see the additional adult cases of Tillery v. Owens, Balla v.
Board of Corrections, Fisher v. Koehler, Baker v. Holden, Feliciano v.
Colon, Stone v. City and County of San Francisco, Young v. Keohane, and
Williams v. Griffin).
also case law on overcrowding-related issues such as sleeping
conditions. Several cases specifically hold that assigning pretrial
detainees to sleep on mattresses on the floor violates the due process
clause (see Lareau v. Manson, Thompson v. City of Los Angeles, and Lyons
v. Powell). Similarly, courts have ruled on overcrowding in juvenile
facilities as it relates to program effectiveness, physical plant,
staff, security, and other conditions of confinement (see Alexander S.
v. Boyd and A.J. v. Kierst). Where overpopulation has an impact upon the
availability of health and mental health services, educational programs,
and recreation; institutional violence; suicide attempts; and situations
requiring the use of force or restraints, the courts may find a
violation of the 14th amendment. In addition, courts may find that the
constitution is violated where overpopulation means that children spend
most of their waking hours locked in their rooms because of inadequate
staff to supervise day rooms or recreational activities.
around the country have imposed population caps to alleviate
overcrowding, even when officials claimed that overcrowding was a result
of budgetary constraints (see Alberti v. Sheriff of Harris County,
Texas). In a recent juvenile institutional case, the West Virginia
Supreme Court of Appeals ordered that no juvenile detention facilities
may accept children beyond their licensed capacity, no child may be held
in detention longer than 30 days pending disposition of his or her case,
and no child may be held longer than 14 days pending postdisposition
placement in an appropriate setting. In addition, the court ordered that
detention centers must adopt modified versions of the American Bar
Association's detention standards at intake (see Facilities Review Panel
Prison Reform Litigation Act of 1995
limits the permissible remedies in cases involving prison conditions and
imposes special requirements on prisoner release orders. Nonetheless,
relief may still be granted to remedy overcrowding, consistent with the
provisions of the act.
Incarcerated individuals retain some privacy rights. In Bell v. Wolfish,
the U.S. Supreme Court held that a determination of whether body cavity
searches may be conducted requires balancing the need for a particular
search with the invasion of personal rights. For example, adult inmates
are entitled to some protection against exposure of their genitals to
persons of the opposite gender (see Arey v. Robinson, Lee v. Downs, and
Hayes v. Marriott). Similarly, random, suspicionless, clothed searches
of female inmates have been found unconstitutional in Jordan v. Gardner.
Also, blanket policies allowing strip searches of all detained persons
represent an unconstitutional intrusion into personal rights (see
Chapman v. Nichols, Mary Beth G. v. City of Chicago, Giles v. Ackerman,
Ward v. County of San Diego, and Thompson v. Souza on recognizing
qualified immunity of officials for visual body cavity searches and
urine tests of prisoners preselected for prior drug involvement and
Thompson v. City of Los Angeles on holding that grand theft auto is
sufficiently associated with violence to justify a strip search based on
the charge itself).
have remained protective in cross-gender searches of female inmates,
disapproving practices such as random, clothed body searches of female
inmates by male guards in Jordan v. Gardner and body cavity searches of
females in the presence of male officers in Bonitz v. Fair. Even patdown
searches of male inmates by female staff violates inmate rights if
improperly conducted (see Watson v. Jones). In some situations, male
inmates enjoy fewer protections than females. The courts have recognized
that female guards may conduct visual body cavity searches of male
inmates, and may supervise male prisoners disrobing, showering, and
using the toilets under Grummet v. Rushen, Somers v. Thorman, and
Johnson v. Phelan.
Facilities vary in their use of mechanical restraints. Most juvenile
facilities use handcuffs, but the use of four-point restraints or
straitjackets is rare. In some facilities, a high incidence of restraint
incidents results from inadequate staff training and overcrowding. In
others, restraints are used to control mentally ill children or adult
inmates or as a punitive measure for troublesome youth.
from bodily restraint is a protected liberty under Youngberg v. Romeo.
Thus, in Garrett v. Rader, the mother of a retarded adult who died in
restraints was entitled to bring an action claiming failure to properly
hire and train staff and failure to correct conditions that had caused
has prohibited the restraint of children to a fixed object (see Pena v.
New York State Division for Youth). The use of restraints as corporal
punishment is unconstitutional under H.C. v. Hewett by Jarrard and
Stewart v. Rhodes. Moreover, the use of restraints as a retaliatory
device against inmates who displease correctional officers may violate
the constitution (see Davidson v. Flynn).
courts dealing with the use of mechanical restraints have found that due
process is violated unless recommended by a health professional (see
Wells v. Franzen and O'Donnell v. Thomas on permitting restraint of a
suicidal inmate and Jones v. Thompson on finding that use of three-way
restraints on a suicidal inmate for a week, coupled with a failure to
provide medical treatment or review and the absence of personal hygiene
amenities, was unconstitutional). The U.S. Supreme Court permits the use
of antipsychotic drugs as a form of medical restraint only where there
is substantial due process protection for the inmate (see Washington v.
Harper and Riggins v. Nevada).
some authority that restraints may be used for a limited period to
prevent self-injury by a minor under Milonas v. Williams and Gary W. v.
State of Louisiana. Such courts have also held that restraints may not
be used for longer than 30 minutes without authorization from qualified
professionals or institutional administrators (see Gary W. v. State of
Louisiana and Pena v. New York Division for Youth).
restraints. A few
juvenile institutions have begun to use tear gas or pepper spray to
restrain children. Although pepper spray alone may not cause death, it
may pose serious danger for inmates who suffer from certain health
the use of chemical restraints has seldom been litigated in juvenile
cases, at least two cases have found that the use of tear gas and mace
on children who were troublesome, uncooperative, or unresponsive to
staff violated the constitution (see Morales v. Turman, and State of
West Virginia v. Werner). Similarly, Alexander S. v. Boyd found it
improper to use tear gas on children to enforce orders.
Most institutions use isolation for out-of-control individuals or as
punishment for breaking rules. Even though isolation is commonly imposed
as a sanction in juvenile institutions, some courts have found that
children may be placed in isolation only when they pose immediate
threats to themselves or others, that they must be monitored closely,
and that they must be released as soon as they have regained control of
institutional case law on the use of isolation as punishment focuses on
arbitrary placement in isolation, the length of time imposed, and
conditions in the isolation room (see Harris v. Maloughney, McCray v.
Burrell, and Lareau v. MacDougall). The cases, demanding that persons in
isolation be afforded humane physical conditions and access to basic
necessities such as showers and exercise, also apply to children.
Children in isolation should be given books, writing materials, and
articles of personal hygiene.
be acceptable as punishment for adults may be unacceptable for children.
Children have a very different perception of time (5 minutes may seem
like an eternity), and their capacity to cope with sensory deprivation
is limited. Thus, in Lollis v. New York State Department of Social
Services, a 14-year-old status offender who got into a fight with
another girl was placed in isolation in a 6- by 9-foot room for 24 hours
a day, for 2 weeks. The court found this isolation to be
wanton infliction of pain on prisoners violates the eighth amendment
under Weems v. United States and Jackson v. Bishop. The use of excessive
force by police or custodial officials violates the 14th amendment under
Hewitt v. City of Truth or Consequences and Meade v. Gibbs. Torturing
inmates to coerce information from them is also improper (see Cohen v.
Coahoma County, Mississippi). Similarly, depriving an inmate of adequate
food is a form of corporal punishment (see Cooper v. Sheriff, Lubbock,
process. A huge body of law governs disciplinary due process in adult
institutional cases, mostly in relation to administrative segregation or
disciplinary transfers. The leading case, Wolff v. McDonnell, holds that
inmates are entitled to these protections whenever "major"
discipline is to be imposed (see Baxter v. Palmigiano). There must be
evidence to support the finding of the disciplinary board.
disciplinary proceedings, inmates are entitled to advance written notice
of the charges against them, an opportunity to call witnesses and
present evidence in their defense where permitting them to do so would
not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals,
an impartial decisionmaker, a written decision describing the evidence
relied upon and the reasons for any disciplinary action taken, and a
procedure for appealing the decision (see Hewitt v. Helm, Punte v. Real,
and Sandin v. Conner).
Grievance procedures are important to children because they provide a
means of addressing perceived injustices, and they thereby assist the
rehabilitative process. They are also important to institutional
administrators, since they provide information about abuses that may be
occurring. In cases involving adults, it is clear that the
constitutional right to seek redress of grievances is violated if there
is any retaliation against the prisoner for filing a grievance (see
Dixon v. Brown). Similarly, grievance procedures may not place
unreasonable restrictions on the language that may be used in presenting
the inmate's complaint under Bradley v. Brown.
law specific to grievance procedures for children is limited, but many
cases have approved various forms of grievance procedures. The basic
elements of adequate procedures are notice to the children of the
availability, purpose, and scope of the procedure; a clear and simple
procedure for the child to present a grievance to staff; prompt
investigation of the grievance; an opportunity for the child to present
the grievance to an impartial panel; notice to the child of the panel's
decision; appropriate disciplinary sanctions to staff if the grievance
is found justified; and written records of the procedure and final
have a right to personal safety under Youngberg v. Romeo, Jackson v.
Fort Stanton State Hospital & Training School, Smith v. Wade, Farmer
v. Brennan, Ramos v. Lamm, and Harris v. Maynard. A growing body of case
law explores the limits of the constitutional right to safety and the
liability of institutional officials for the failure to protect
vulnerable inmates (see Young v. Quinlan, Redman v. County of San Diego,
LaMarca v. Turner, Miller v. Glanz, Luciano v. Galindo, Sampley v.
Ruettgers, and Hill v. Shelander).
v. McMillan, the U.S. Supreme Court held that minor injuries suffered by
a handcuffed, shackled inmate beaten by three Louisiana prison guards
constituted a violation of the eighth amendment. The supervisor on duty
had watched the beating and told the guards "not to have too much
fun." The Court held that in measuring the objective component of a
violation of the eighth amendment, courts should be guided by
contemporary standards of decency (Wilson v. Seiter) and, when officials
act sadistically, those standards are always violated whether
significant injury is evident or not (see Felix v. McCarthy on denying
qualified immunity to prison guards in connection with an unprovoked
attack on an inmate, even though the injury to the inmate was slight,
and Valencia v. Wiggins on denying qualified immunity to a jailer who
bashed an inmate's head against cell bars and used a choke hold that
rendered the inmate unconscious).
difficult to say when violence reaches constitutional proportions. A
California court ruled in Inmates of Riverside County Jail v. Clark that
violence had reached an unacceptable level when there was a one in three
chance that an inmate would become a victim of violence. In LaMarca v.
Turner, the court examined reports showing that the prison
superintendent was aware of the level of violence and the conditions
contributing to it without acting to remedy the situation.
been less litigation over safety issues in juvenile facilities, but the
same principles apply; facilities must protect children from violence
and sexual assault by other children (see Guidry v. Rapides Parish
School Board and C.J.W. by and through L.W. v. State). In monitoring
safety issues in juvenile institutions, it is crucial to examine reports
of violence or potential violence from individuals, the number and
characteristics of violent incidents, and the level of fear in the
institution. Another safety issue that, fortunately, arises less
frequently is staff brutality. There are few cases on this issue, but
further research on the use of excessive force would be valuable.