New to the library is the updated and revised Fifth Edition of Rights of Prisoners by Michael B. Mushlin. This four-volume set incorporates the sweeping changes in prison law that resulted from the more than dozen cases before the United States Supreme Court dealing with prisoners’ rights as well as federal and state legislation dealing with the treatment of prisoners. Mushlin begins his treatise with an historical overview of prisoners’ rights and a discussion of the standards used to determine whether a prisoner’s rights have been violated. He then focuses upon specific violations of constitutional amendments, such as the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In this regard, the author raises such issues as solitary confinement, use of force by prison personnel and assaults by other inmates, and prison conditions. The Eighth Amendment also comes into play when there are allegations about the inadequacy of medical care. Mushlin details the specific types of care required and the right of an inmate to refuse treatment. Other constitutionally-based issues discussed include discrimination, free speech, religious freedom, privacy rights, prison labor, and due process rights in disciplinary proceedings.
The author also devotes several chapters to topics that involve the management of prisons, such as classification decisions, transfers, and detainers. Other rights addressed include a prisoner’s right to access the courts, visitation rights, rights to send and receive written correspondence, and the right of access to the media and the corresponding right of prisons to limit or restrict such rights . Mushlin also looks at the civil disabilities imposed upon prisoners during their incarceration and any attendant constitutional issues raised by the laws that impose such disabilities. He also analyzes the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the impact it has had on jail and prison litigation. He looks at its most important provisions like the standards for prospective relief, the exhaustion requirement, the physical injury requirement, and in forma pauperis.
Mushlin ends his treatise with an examination of the private prison industry, its history, and the arguments surrounding the issue of whether the government can delegate the authority to operate prisons to a private entity.
Rights of Prisoners is a wonderful resource for those seeking to protect the rights of incarcerated clients or to keep abreast of the evolving law governing prisons. Find it here at the Harris County Law Library in our criminal law section.