January 8, 2019

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Inmate’s Rights Regarding Discipline

Gordon Graham
Category: Corrections

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for corrections.

Make sure that the decisions you make about discipline within your facility are fair and consistent.

Today’s Tip is for correctional officers and it deals with an inmate’s right to limited due process when facing discipline within your facility.  

Some of you who have been around for a very long time might have heard stories of how inmate discipline was dealt with “back in the day.” An inmate broke the rules. Got into a fight. Maybe stole something. Used foul language. And he or she would go straight to disciplinary confinement for an undetermined amount of time. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Straight to “the box” or “the hole” until someone felt like letting them out.  

That may have worked 40 or 50 years ago. But it doesn’t work anymore. And it hasn’t worked since 1974. The Supreme Court ruled in Wolf v. McDonnell that inmates should have some limited due process when it comes to disciplinary sanctions. Regardless of where they are confined.  

Now let’s be clear. There’s not going to be a full-blown trial and the inmate doesn’t have the right to legal counsel. They are entitled to a few things though. Notification of the rule violation. Ample time to prepare a defense. An impartial hearing officer or board. And a limited right to call witnesses. And to cross-examine them. Discipline should be proportionate to the offense. And there should be an appeal mechanism in place. It is important that you don’t impose disciplinary sanctions until after the hearing. And until AFTER it’s been signed off by the appropriate chain of command. 

I know that this is probably a lot more work than it used to be. But this stuff is really importantMake sure that the decisions you make about restrictive housing are fair and consistent.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 


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