Skip to comments.Racial Segregation in Prison
Posted on 11/13/2004 11:41:11 PM PST by Former Military Chick
The Supreme Court heard arguments recently in a challenge to California's policy of segregating inmates by race in their first 60 days of incarceration. Prison officials argue that the practice reduces racially motivated violence. But government-imposed racial segregation should be permitted only in extraordinary circumstances, if at all. The court should strike down the policy.
When inmates arrive at California Department of Corrections facilities, either as new inmates or transfers, they are temporarily held in double cells at a prison "reception center." When cell assignments are made, the inmates are divided into four general categories: black, white, Asian and other. Inmates are almost invariably assigned cellmates of their own race.
The State of California says its policy, by which hundreds of thousands of prisoners were segregated last year, reduces violence in the cells. After 60 days, the state says it has enough information to decide whether particular inmates are dangerous. Of course, it is possible that the policy makes things worse. At oral argument, Justice John Paul Stevens asked what he called a "stupid question": whether, if California wants to discourage racial gangs, it wouldn't make more sense to house prisoners with members of a different race.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the policy. It invoked a Supreme Court precedent, Turner v. Safley, giving prisons broad authority in how they handle their inmates. California produced little evidence to support its segregation policy, but the court accepted as "common sense" the notion that there is a connection between segregating prisoners and combating violence.
The Ninth Circuit should have been far more skeptical. The courts have long applied "strict scrutiny," an onerous legal standard, to racial classifications. The Ninth Circuit wants to carve out an exception for prisons. But given the history of racial discrimination in American penology, from segregated prisons and work farms to chain gangs, the courts should be highly demanding in reviewing racial policies behind bars.
This case might be harder if California prisons used racial segregation rarely, and only in response to serious threats or instances of racially motivated violence. But a blanket policy that separates all new prisoners on the basis of race is unconstitutional.
May be over reaching to some, I say this is something to save lives, espcially when someone first goes into the system. But, I am open and will watch as this develops.
I really don't understand why there is not only one right or one right above all when someone is incarcerated by the state. That is the the right to be safe and unharmed.
I dont care if they have to sleep them one to a cell in shifts with each inmate getting 8 hours in the bunk ala the US Navy. I see no reason to allow inmates to do harm to each other.
Who is the plaintiff in this case?
If the State wants to put white guys with white guys, black guys with black guys, and brown guys with brown guys, I think that's just a weensie little bit of common sense.
What are these folks suing for anyway? The 'right' to be incarcerated with people who have a different skin color? I'm not sure any such 'right' exists.
The lesson here is don't do anything that will land your ass in prison. I think it's pretty simple. "Obey The Law" isn't something that's really all that difficult to do.
If one does that, there's very little chance that one will find oneself sharing a 6' X 6' cell with someone named Bubba, or Jamal, Or Jose.
I just can't work up a whole lot of empathy for someone who has found themself in the hoosegow. But, that's just me.
It figures that the NYT would be all worked up about this, though.
It's become very clear that all prisoners everywhere need to attend mandatory diversity training classes.
They probably want the courts to institute busing or quotas.
I am shocked that the 9th Circus went along with California on this one.
It seems like a reasonable policy to have to ensure that there aren't as many shankings going on in the joint.
Of course the Slimes disagrees and would rather have more murders in honor of diversity.
"I really don't understand why there is not only one right or one right above all when someone is incarcerated by the state. That is the the right to be safe and unharmed."
I agree with you. I have never liked remarks that are often made to the effect of send him to jail, then let the inmates mete out rough justice. That is not our way, although of course it happens too much.
I would defer to the prisons on this, but it would help their case if they had some before/after statistics to back it up.
Prison isn't college, and it isn't the military either.
The name of the case and docket number:
Garrison S. Johnson v. James Gomez, et al.
I guess Mr. Johnson craves to be away from his own kind, and Mr. Gomez must be the head of the prison system, or something like that.
Tip o'the hat to Findlaw.com, anyone wanting further details can find it all there. They've got the pleadings, etc. in PDF form.
It truly is the information age!
Perhaps OJ can teach it, oops wait he walked, oh yeah, we can have no convict Scott Peterson teach it, he must have issues with his multicolor hair?
I suppose everything is PC and if it isn't then we have to go to the courts or have Dr Phil to help resolve the issue. Lets face it some of these folks are not nice people they did something to end up where they are.
I suppose they need some rights, but, frankly they lose those when they break the law.
It seems like a none issue. Most facilities I have read do not allow visits or calls the first few weeks or months while you are processing into the system. Seems to me if you are in that window that you can be segrated.
If not, the new guys will show off their gang tats, their gang colors, their gang everything increasing the hassards of the rest of the inmate and guard staff. imho
The NYT is full of it on this issue. SCOTUS has long held that prisoners and other wards of the state have special protections (because they can't act to protect themselves; they rely on the state for protection). And reducing violence against vulnerable wards of the state--even prisoners, even those who've committed despicable crimes--is a valid goal for race conscious policies.
If race consciousness is allowed in order to foster "diversity" in universities, surely it should be allowed to protect people from racially motivated violence.
Actually, SCOTUS has recognized that right.
certain "special relationships" created or assumed by the State with respect to particular individuals may give rise to an affirmative duty, enforceable through the Due Process [489 U.S. 189, 190] Clause, to provide adequate protection, see Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97; Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, the affirmative duty to protect arises not from the State's knowledge of the individual's predicament or from its expressions of intent to help him, but from the limitations which it has imposed on his freedom to act on his own behalf, through imprisonment, institutionalization, or other similar restraint of personal libertyIt's clear that the state has an duty to do what is necessary and reasonable to protect prisoners. It is not just a goal but a duty--and if it needs to take race into account, that's fine.
The NYT is so full of s---. I mean, they want race-based affirmative action, but they don't want to keep prisoners safe? They're the first to blame the state when prisoners aren't kept safe. There is no ideological coherence about their position. I don't "get it."
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