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Supreme Court: Officers Who Cuffed Inmate to Hitching Post are not Immune from Damages

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 64 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 70-73
Stanley E. Adelman
Susan L. Clayton M.S.
Date Published
December 2002
4 pages
This articles reviews and discusses the U.S. Supreme Court case and decision of Hope versus Pelzer where, in 1995, an inmate within the Alabama Department of Corrections filed a lawsuit under the Federal Civil Rights Act (FCRA) against correctional officers for allegedly cuffing him to a hitching post.
In 1995, three correctional officers with the Alabama Department of Corrections allegedly, on two occasions, handcuffed Larry Hope, an inmate of the Limestone Prison, to a hitching post in the sun, without regular water or bathroom breaks. During this time frame, Alabama was the only State that allowed the practice of handcuffing inmates to a hitching post when an offender refused to work or disrupted a work squad. Larry Hope filed suit under the Federal Civil Rights Act (FCRA). The FCRA provides that one whose constitutional or other federally protected rights have been violated may bring suit for damages against the person/persons who caused the violation action under color of State law. The decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 in the Hope versus Pelzer case provided guidance on two issues: (1) the Court held that the correctional officers’ conduct, if proved at trial, violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and (2) the Court determined that the officers should have known that their actions were unlawful and, therefore, not entitled to qualified immunity from damages. The purpose of this article is to share the guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court in this case to help prevent liability in future cases. The Hope versus Pelzer decision, on the use of the hitching post, will hopefully become a historical moot point.