|Legal Issues in Corrections|
|By Terry Campbell, Professor, Kaplan University, School of Public Safety|
Our theme for April is Legal Issues. There are four topics I will discuss. They are the death penalty, cell phone usage, restrictive housing, and social media sites. These topics alone are controversial and have generated legal challenges and various court rulings. I feel we can agree to disagree as we review these topics below.
The State of Arkansas is planning on executing eight inmates over a period of eleven days. Once this was announced, both sides of the death penalty controversy have surfaced and been rather vocal. One of the drugs used during the execution is scheduled for expiration. This appears to be the main reason behind the scheduled executions and restrictive timeframe. There have been multiple law suits filed over these scheduled executions. The state has responded, ‘this will bring closure to some of the victim’s families.’
Some attorney’s representing some of the inmates expressed concern with the inmate’s ability to file an executive clemency application and be processed within imposed dates. At the same time, these inmates previously exercised their appeal rights. The recent challenges previously mentioned as well as new challenges are being filed and/or have been filed. This will continue up to last minute appeals. There are also concerns with the potential stress and trauma placed on staff, and the potential for error. Regardless of the outcome, this is a topic that continues to generate media coverage leading to the planned executions.
This is a controversial topic and one that all parties will not agree upon. Meanwhile, looking to the future after these executions, presents some continued uncertainty regarding the death penalty and potential for increased executions.
Our next topic takes a look at the use of cell phones throughout our prison and jail systems. Again, depending on which side of the topic one stands, defines their respected position. Currently cell phones are prohibited and considered contraband. Cell phones can provide contact with inmate’s families, allow inmates to engage in criminal acts from within a correctional setting, lucrative business for people and/or officers to illegally bring in a cell phone for financial gain, if I am an inmate and have the unauthorized telephone I can charge others to use the phone, and other. Anytime we deal with items prohibited, there will be an increase into inmates who illegally try and receive cell phones. This often leads to additional trafficking and trading concerns. There are many documented cases of cell phones being brought in to inmates.
There are some general questions that come into play:
Restrictive housing continues to generate interest and provide a backlog in legal challenges. The following areas continue to be challenged:
Inmates in 24 states used Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube to protest the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. There are other documented incidents as well. This has become problematic and creates additional safety and security concerns. Many states have initiated the following:
Stay safe out there.
Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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