Monday, August 14, 2006

Prison Sexual Abuse No Big Deal to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

Mike at Crime & Federalism is understandably outraged over the 11th Circuit's conclusion that a prisoner who has been repeatedly forced to expose himself and masturbate in front of a prison guard has suffered only a de minimis injury, and therefore has not suffered a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Apparently, since the guard didn't cause any physical pain, and only made the guy masturbate a few times (and wrote him up on false disciplinary charges a few more when he refused), it's just not that bad. (**This case was in the pre-trial phase, so the court was assuming the allegations to be true for the purpose of resolving whether he could proceed to trial.) I wonder if this is something I could get my old pal Nancy Grace to be outraged about?


Blogger Tom McKenna said...

Not every bad thing that happens in jail is an 8th Amendment violation. In fact, the original (and better, IMHO) view was that the 8th protected you from government sanctioned cruel and unusual punishment, not from the actions of a renegade prison guard. His actions are probably violative of some other provision of law, and should certainly get him fired... but the state did not condone the action, so they should not be held to have violated the 8th.

8/15/2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger 123txpublicdefender123 said...

But, whether it was state action or state sanctioned action wasn't the issue, Tom. The issue was whether what he was subjected to was more than "de minimis" injury. As a prosecutor, I am guessing that you agree with me that being forced, under threat from a corrections officer (who holds a lot of power of the health, safety, welfare, and liberty of an inmate), to masturbate for someone else's gratification on several occasions is more than a de minimis injury. And for a federal appellate court to say otherwise is what is appalling. As a factual matter, we don't even know for sure that it happened, and we don't know whether it was sanctioned by the higher ups. Those are things for a jury to decide. What the court was to decide was whether, if the inmate's allegations were true, was this cruel and unusual punishment or was it just de minimis. And, I think the court flat out blew it, and should be ashamed of themselves.

8/15/2006 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fully believe that anyone that forces themself on another or forces sexual activity on another is demented. I also believe that the "good" prison guards must be praised for dealing with predators everyday. In fact, I believe that the official ratio of prisoners to guards in Mass in about 70:1 during their awake time.

8/17/2006 1:59 PM  

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