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Prisoner Classification and Gang Activity

NCJ Number
AELE Monthly Law Journal Issue: 11 Dated: November 2013 Pages: 301-308
Bernard J. Farber
Date Published
November 2013
8 pages
This paper examines how courts have addressed the problem of gang activity in jails and prisons in the context of prisoner classification.
As noted in this paper, gang activity in prisons and jails is a major concern for corrections officials as it threatens the safety of prisoners, correctional officers, and visitors, and it undermines the facilities' security measures. One possible solution for addressing this problem is the proper classification of prisoners by the courts wherein the courts take into account gang affiliations and activities when determining levels of risk for each prisoner and assigning them to specific security levels based on this risk assessment. The paper cites a case in Michigan in which a Federal appeals court ruled that designating a prisoner as a member of a "Security Threat Group" (STG) on the basis of gang activity without first conducting a hearing did not violate that prisoner's rights. The court found that the Michigan Department of Correction's policy directive on the classification of inmates as STG members "was rationally related to a legitimate state interest in maintaining order in the prison." The court also found that none of the eight factors used for considering a group as an STG could be considered discriminatory. These factors include the history, purpose, and organizational structure of the group; demographics of the group; specific illegal acts associated with the group; and propensity for violence or specific violent acts attributed to the group. The paper also highlights additional cases in which the courts found that prisoner classification schemes used by corrections departments were not discriminatory. List of resources related to the subject of prisoner classification