"Tied to the Hitching Post" Part 2

More on yesterday's Supreme Court's ruling reinstating a civil rights action against prison officials in the case of an Alabama inmate who repeatedly had been tied to a hitching post, left in the sun for hours without adequate water and bathroom breaks, taunted and more. HOPE V. PELZER (01-309)

The Supreme Court ruled that the guards actions were 'totally without penological justification" and demonstrated "deliberate indifference" to the inmates' health or safety. An obvious Eighth Amendment violation on the facts, said the Justices.

Governmental immunity won't protect the prison officials because "a reasonable officer would have known that using a hitching post as Hope alleged was unlawful. The obvious cruelty inherent in the practice should have provided respondents with some notice that their conduct was unconstitutional." (from the syllabus of the opinion)

How bad was the treatment? According to Atlanta Lawyer Craig Jones who represented the inmate, during the second hitching, at one point guards brought out buckets of water, and then gave it to some dogs. "Like something out of 'Cool Hand Luke." Actually, we think it's a lot worse, read the opinion for the gory details.

What will be the effect of the ruling? Civil rights lawyers say it's a brand new day, at least in the 11th Circuit. Now plaintiffs can pierce the immunity shields and recover damages when state officials inflict needless pain on inmates.

Clarence Thomas dissented.

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