Friday, July 07, 2006

Apocalypse for prisoners

Kim from Is That Legal? talks about a dangerous legal decision in Woodford v. Ngo:

Ngo, by contrast, is really apocalyptic for inmate civil rights suits. Prison administrators set the requirements and deadlines of their grievance systems. They have now been told that they can immunize themselves and their employees by constructing a system that is sufficiently procedurally complex and unforgiving to trip up inmates. Of course that’s what they’re going to do -- prison grievance systems are going to become the first line of litigation defense, and a very effective one. And, as I will try to show next time, it doesn't make much sense, either logically or in terms of any policy aim other than keeping inmates out of court regardless of the merits of their claims.

So where’s the outcry over Ngo?

Where indeed? I think it speaks volumes for the hardening of America's collective heart that they are less concerned about punishment being appropriate for the crime, as set by law, and more accepting of a prison system that allows guards carte blanche to commit any crime they like, so long as the only victim is an inmate. Civil rights suits are the last legal line of defence to protect inmates from predatory guards and cruel and unusual punishments.

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