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10-01-01 California Inmate Rights Violations Continue Kpa Newsletter

10-01-01 California Inmate Rights Violations Continue Kpa Newsletter

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Published by: Human Rights Alert, NGO on May 01, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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January 2010Newsletter
Inmates Continue to Endure Constitutional Violations While California Struggles with PrisonReform
 The United States Constitution acts to guarantee fundamental rights concerning conditions of confinement andtreatment for all criminal defendants sentenced to U.S. prisons. Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment of the U.S.Constitution, individuals convicted of a crime have the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment while inprison. While no universal definition exists of what constitutions “cruel and unusual” punishment, it is settled thatany punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed “cruel andunusual.” Typically, an inmate’s Eighth Amendment complaint regarding punishment and confinement conditionsare brought in connection with federal civil rights laws, including the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 18U.S.C. §3626, and 42 U.S.C. §1983.The PLRA has two sets of requirements for relief: requirements regarding all prison-conditions-related litigation,and requirements that apply specifically to population reduction orders. The latter order - which can only be givenby a three-judge panel - requires the court to find, by clear and convincing evidence, that:(i) crowding is theprimary cause of the violation of a Federal right; and (ii) no other relief will remedy the violation of the Federalright.When challenging conditions of confinement, such as the standard of California Department of Corrections andRehabilitation’s medical services, an inmate must show the institutional officials acted with “deliberateindifference” to the inmate’s constitutional rights. Deliberate indifference means the inmate must show more thanmere negligent behavior on the part of the institution’s officials and generally demonstrate that (1) theinstitution’s employees were aware of some risk of harm or danger to the inmate; (2) the institution’s employeeschose not to take any steps to remedy the problem; AND (3) the inmate’s fundamental rights were violated as aresult.By no measure are prisons required to be a walk in the park, or provide state of the art care to inmates, butrather, prisons are required to only offer care consistent with the minimum requirements of the Constitution, i.e.:the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities. Despite this low standard, California’s inability to make itsprisons offer even the bare minimum medical and mental health care to inmates is apparent through the twoleading cases of 
Plata v. Schwarzenegger 
Coleman v. Schwarzenegger 
respectively. Stephen Reinhardt, U.S.Circuit Judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Lawrence Karlton, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern DistrictCourt of California; and Thelton Henderson, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District Court of California, whomake up the three-judge panel presiding over the litigation, have determined in their 184 page opinion and orderin the matter of 
Coleman v. Schwarzeneer 
Plata v. Schwarzeneer 
that California’s risons are violatin

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