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Supreme Court considers "supermax" prison assignments

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments Wednesday in Wilkinson v. Austin [Duke Law School case backgrounder], a case where the Court is considering what procedures are needed to protect a prisoner's due process rights when prison officials seek to place the prisoner in a "super-maximum security" facility. Ohio is challenging a 6th Circuit ruling [PDF text] that prisoners are entitled to hearings with witnesses before being assigned to a "supermax" facility, where inmates are held in 23-hour-a-day-lockdown, face tighter security and are allowed less access to phones and personal items. Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro [official profile] told the Supreme Court that prisoners transferred to Ohio's supermax facilities are given adequate notice and information about the reason for the move and said that "The government needs to have the capacity to make the best possible decision based on a wide variety of factors." Arguing on behalf of Ohio inmates, University of Pittsburgh law professor Jules Lobel [academic profile], also Vice President of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Court that Ohio's policy only requires correctional officials to give "vague reasons" for transfers to the extremely restrictive facilities, which is insufficient to protect prisoners' due process rights. The ABA provides merit briefs filed by both sides in the case and CCR has a press release on Wednesday's Supreme Court arguments. AP has more.

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