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November 14, 2006

Seventh Circuit ruling spotlighting Supermax realities

As noted here at How Appealing, the Seventh Circuit today in this opinion reinstates a prisoner's Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim challenging the conditions in Wisconsin's Supermax prison's "behavioral modification program."  Here's part of the factual background:

Gillis arrived at Supermax on February 15, 2002. Within 2 weeks of his arrival he was placed in the BMP for an infraction of what he sees as a relatively minor rule. The rule requires that inmates sleep with their heads toward the back of the cell (and the toilet). Gillis slept with his head toward the front of the cell and on occasion covered his head. He says that the rule was not being uniformly No. 06-2099 3 enforced and that some inmates did not follow the rule because it forced them to lie with their heads next to the toilet.

The defendants, various prison officers and agents, see it differently. They argue that compliance with the rule is necessary so guards can see an inmate’s head through a small window on the cell door. If the guards cannot see the head of the inmate, they cannot determine his condition. Defendants also say that they began to enforce the rule on February 22, 2002, which is about a week before the BMP was imposed on Gillis. The toilets, they say, are “perfectly clean,” so that cannot be the reason inmates sleep with their heads in the wrong direction. The security director did not classify this violation as a “major offense,” but defendant Bradley Hompe, a unit supervisor, who was the moving force behind Gillis’s placement, considered the violation to be major. Whether “major” or “minor,” it was for this infraction that Gillis was placed in the BMP. The BMP is a program designed to force difficult inmates to conform to the rules.

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November 14, 2006 at 03:24 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Contrast the reality described in your post with the description given in this article: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/14/supermax.messages/index.html

Too lax? I find that hard to believe.

Posted by: | Nov 15, 2006 12:17:34 AM

I have no doubt that being in prison means being subjected to daily, if not hourly, assaults on one's human dignity.

With that said, I just don't think that having to lie a certain way on the bed is one of them.

Posted by: Sparky | Nov 16, 2006 12:23:59 PM

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