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Prison jumpsuits don't constitute cruel and unusual punishment

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Requiring inmates to wear lightweight jumpsuits instead of shirt and pants is not cruel and unusual punishment, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Prisoner James Daher at the Miami Correctional Facility sought a temporary restraining order preventing the Indiana Department of Correction from implementing a plan to issue jumpsuits to inmates rather than shirts and pants. Daher claimed he would suffer irreparable harm because the jumpsuits are ill-fitting, poor quality, and a made of thin material, which would be an issue during cold months. He also argued forcing inmates to wear the jumpsuits would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The trial court dismissed his petition after screening it through guidelines listed in Indiana Code 35-58-1-2, although the judge didn’t say whether he dismissed it for failure to state a claim or because it was frivolous.  

Daher relies on I.C. 5-23-5 et seq., which sets out the procedures to be followed by governmental entities that wish to enter into agreements with private parties in certain circumstances. He claimed that he’s entitled to the TRO because the DOC engaged in impropriety when it awarded the contract for making jumpsuits without engaging in a public bidding process. The contract Daher challenges regarding prison uniforms isn’t governed by this statute so his argument fails, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander in James Daher v. Mark Sevier, No. 52A04-1103-MI-150.

With regards to Daher’s argument that the poor quality of the jumpsuit would subject him to cruel and unusual punishment, that argument also fails.

“Without meaning to be flip, we presume that the facility in which he is housed is heated in the winter and that he will be provided with appropriate outer wear in the event he must go outside into the cold,” wrote the judge. “In short, his complaint addresses matters of comfort that do not rise to the level of wanton deprivation or undue suffering. In fact, the condition of which he complains falls so far below the Eighth Amendment threshold of cruel and unusual punishment that it can fairly be characterized as a trivial complaint in that context.”

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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