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Mainstreaming Death-Sentenced Inmates: The Missouri Experience and Its Legal Significance

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 61 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1997 Pages: 3-11
G Lombardi; R D Sluder; D Wallace
Date Published
9 pages
Missouri's experience with mainstreaming offenders sentenced to capital punishment into the general inmate population is discussed in terms of its outcomes, legal significance, and implications regarding the desirability of reconsidering conventional practices for the management of these offenders.
Death rows in many States have experienced reforms over the past few decades, although many reforms have been minor. Missouri housed condemned prisoners on death row at the Jefferson City Correctional Center before April 1989. Death row inmates were completely segregated from the general inmate population on a below-ground unit. A 1987 consent decree resulting from a 1986 class-action lawsuit resulted in several changes in the management of death row. The decree called for the creation of a death row classification system with three levels: regular custody, close custody, and no-contact custody. The State's 70 death-sentenced inmates were transferred to the new Potosi Correctional Center in April 1989. Officials gradually reduced longstanding restrictions for death-sentenced inmates. Prison officials discarded the term "death row inmates" and began referring to these offenders as capital punishment inmates. Months of planning led to the mainstreaming of these inmates into the general population on January 8, 1991. The program has addressed concerns about public and staff acceptance and has been adjusted as it has evolved. The 6 years of experience with this approach have indicated that integration is a viable, effective approach. In addition, the legal issues that arise in litigation of conditions of confinement of death row inmates suggest that a constitutional imperative may exist for emulating the Missouri experience. Notes, list of cited cases, and 16 references