Julian Ellis There are over two million convicted and detained inmates in the United States housed in an array of federal and state correctional facilities. Although it is recognized that prisoners’ rights are reduced upon admission to these correctional institutions, the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that prisoners are not beyond the reach of the Constitution and its protections. The question, however, is how far should constitutional protections extend, and at what point does the security of others and the overall facility restrict the personal rights of another?
W. Matthew PierceThough Americans argue about what size our government should be, few debate what size our government is—large and complex. As statutory law developed, government agencies were created and expanded to administer different portions of the ever-growing body of law. Our government today is comprised of dozens of agencies, each tasked with administering some cumbersome area of law.
Federal habeas corpus allows state prisoners to seek relief in federal court on the grounds that they were convicted or sentenced “in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” However, prisoners seeking habeas corpus relief face numerous barriers imposed by the courts and Congress that prevent federal review of state court convictions. Failure to comply with state procedural rules in postconviction proceedings results in “procedural default,” which precludes prisoners from raising defaulted claims in federal court. Prisoners do not have a constitutional right to counsel in postconviction proceedings, and procedural default is frequently the result of inadequate counsel in those proceedings.