Supreme Court to review prison Control Unit classification

December 10, 2004 -- The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case of classifying prisoners into super maximum-security prisons, looking specifically at how prisoners are classified into these prisons. Most states have the prisons, that go by many names, including Supermax and Control Units. MIM has been fighting to shut down prison Control Units for years.

Control units may vary from prison to prison but they can be generally characterized as: Permanently designated prisons or cells in prisons that lock prisoners up in solitary or small group confinement for 22 or more hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services, and virtually no programs for prisoners. Prisoners are placed in control units for extended periods of time. Prisoners are usually placed in control units as an administrative measure, with no clear rules governing the moves.

The Supreme Court will review an appeal from the Ohio supermax where prisoners are on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in 90-square foot cells. This appeal follows the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on a class-action lawsuit against the state arguing that prisoners were not given a chance to fight the classification into the supermax. The Appeals court ruled that prisoners in the Ohio are entitled to hearings, with witnesses, before being classified into the supermax.

This is a case well worth watching. As the AP reported: "The case forces the Supreme Court to revisit a 1995 decision that limited prisoners' rights to have hearings before they lose privileges or are disciplined for misconduct. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in that opinion that inmate liberty interests are 'limited to freedom from restraint which ... imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'"

The case is Wilkinson v. Austin, 04-495.