U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Tennessee Constitutional Standards for Conditions of Pretrial Detention - A Mandate for Jail Reform

NCJ Number
Tennessee Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1981) Pages: 688-720
R W Lough
Date Published
33 pages
Following an overview of Federal standards for pretrial detention, this comment examines the possibility that State courts may impose higher standards regarding jail conditions based on their State constitutions and interprets provisions in Tennessee's constitution to achieve this goal.
In response to deplorable jail conditions, there has been a considerable amount of jail reform litigation in the past decade. However, rural jails have escaped this scrutiny, and Tennessee's jails have many deficiencies which may violate State and Federal constitutional standards. After the mid-1960's, Federal courts began to abandon judicial restraint and advocate a form of judicial scrutiny to protect detainees' rights. The U.S. Supreme Court first considered claims by pretrial detainees of unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Bell v. Wolfish, but this opinion weakened the role of Federal courts in protecting detainees by adopting a weak test for determining whether a particular condition constitutes punishment and placing stringent requirements on defendants to prove they are being punished. In view of this trend, attention should be given to standards for pretrial detention under State law. Several State constitutions provide protection for pretrial detainees, and State courts in New York and California have already interpreted their constitutions to provide greater protection than required by Wolfish. Tennessee's constitution contains two provisions which protect prisoners from abuse: section 13 prohibits the use of 'unnecessary rigor' and section 32 requires 'safe and comfortable prisons' and 'humane treatment of prisoners.' Interpretations of both clauses by Tennessee and other State courts are discussed, and their requirements are compared. Tennessee courts are likely to face several jail suits and will be forced to interpret these long overlooked provisions. These State constitutional guarantees should be enforced strictly because the jail problem is serious and detainees have no viable means of redress other than the judiciary. The article contains 195 footnotes.