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American Prison Law - Essay Example

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Equal and meaningful access to the courts has become the established standard that has to be observed by correctional professionals and prison librarians in the United States of America. Some correction administrators believe that offenders should be deprived of their civil rights, while serving their sentences…
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American Prison Law
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American Prison Law

Citizens, who had been wrongly accused or unjustly sentenced, could challenge such actions. It was the bounden duty of the federal government to implement a system of checks-and-balances in the system so that the correction department did not infringe the fundamental liberty of citizens. This endeavor was assisted significantly by librarians who acted in an unbiased manner within the purview of the standards established by the American Association of Law Libraries. This was to ensure that the policies of institutions and departments, and authorizations from the United States Supreme Court and local jurisdictions were observed2.
In the 1977 case of Bounds v. Smiths, the right of an offender to access the judiciary was established by the US Supreme Court. Moreover, the court held that prison inmates should be provided with access to state and federal court systems. It also directed the correctional facilities to allow offenders to access law libraries and to provide legal assistance to their illiterate inmates, so that they could avail themselves of professional assistance while preparing their pleadings. The objective of this decision was to enable prisoners to access the court systems. However this ruling created a lot of consternation amongst the correctional personnel, librarians and library science professionals as it required them to implement new strategies in order to provide prison inmates with access to the appropriate legal documents3.
The applicants in Casey v Lewis were prison officials of the Arizona DOC. The DOC had argued that the US District Court of Arizona had been mistaken in deciding that the department had breached Bounds. It also claimed that the court's order deprived the lawful remedies of the department. The respondents in the case were twenty - two inmates imprisoned in various correctional facilities of the DOC4.
The respondents collectively filed a class - suit on behalf of all offenders who had been imprisoned and also on behalf of future offenders. In their application they have accused the DOC of depriving them of the right to access the courts and counsel. These provisions had been assured by the First, Sixth and Fourteenth Constitutional amendments. The district court held that the prisoners had a constitutional right of access to the courts and that such access was to be adequate and effective5.
Moreover, the court held that the DOC had failed to act in accordance with constitutional standards. The court also found that the DOC was not in a position to meet the offenders' needs in areas such as providing the inmates with appropriate training so as to utilize the library. It also held that the library had failed to obtain updated legal materials and that it had not provided prisoners with photocopying facilities6.
Moreover, the court observed that prisoners belonged to two groups and that these offenders had not been provided with adequate services. The first group was composed of offenders on a lockdown status or in other words it was composed of offenders who had been deprived of the bodily right of entry to the law library. Such offenders were on occasion denied access to the courts. The second group consisted of offenders who either could not speak English or who were illiterate7.
The court accepted the ... Read More
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