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Supreme Court hears arguments in prison segregation case

[JURIST] The Supreme Court today heard arguments in Johnson v. California (case summary from Duke Law School), a racial segregation case, involving the constitutionality of black California inmates being bunked together for months at a time, with the purpose of keeping prisons safe. At issue is an unwritten California policy which requires prison officials to assign newly arrived black prisoners to bunk only with other black prisoners for two months or more. Inmates are separated by race each time they transfer to a new facility. Eight other states have joined California in an effort to keep up the policy. The Supreme Court has typically given prison officials a free hand in managing their facilities to control violence and protect inmates and those who guard them. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist missed the argument because of ongoing radiation and chemotherapy for thyroid cancer but is expected to vote (see previous report on Paper Chase). The case is Johnson v. California, 03-636. Read the Ninth Circuit opinion upholding the practice here [PDF]. Read Johnson's brief to the Supreme Court here [PDF]. Read the California brief to the Supreme Court here [PDF]. AP has more.

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