The 14th Amendment

1. The 14th Amendment has many parts to it, yet the one part that is most applicable to the Wolff v. McDonell case is the part where it discusses Equal Protection. Specifically, Equal Protection, “refers to the idea that a governmental body may not deny people equal protection of its governing laws. The governing body state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances” (Cornell Law School Staff, n.d.). Simply, the 14th Amendment requires the states to practice equal rights for all of similar situations. Thus, based on this notion, the 14th Amendment can be applied to Wolff v. McDonell. This is because this class-action suit of 1974 is involving a prisoner whose warden from which the prisoner, “argued that the disciplinary proceedings within the prison violated due process, that the legal assistance program in the prison was inadequate, and that the rules for inspecting mail from attorneys were unconstitutionally restrictive” (Vile, n.d.). Thus, it is evident that the 14th Amendment’s right to equal conditions, including proper due process and client privacy and privileges for all inmates, is evident in the case of Wolff v. McDonell. In addition, the court decided that prisoners are allowed to receive confidential mail from attorneys in which, “Prison authorities would still have the right to open such mail in the presence of prisoners to ensure that such letters contained no contraband, but this would not include the right to read such correspondence” (Vile, n.d.). Personally, I agree with this decision because the right to due process includes attorney-client privilege and as long as there is no contraband in the information received from attorney to prisoners, I do not see an issue with having only the prisoner be allowed to read the mail.


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2. When first looking at the 14th amendment you will notice that there are several different part to it that apply to the American people. But when it comes to this cases the 14th plays a part in equal protection of the laws. The cases started when a inmate in the Nebraska state prison filled a class action lawsuit, for himself and as well as other inmates, alleging that prison disciplinary proceedings violated the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. As well in the law suit it objected to the prisoners inspection of mail between inmate and their attorneys. The court ruled in favor of the prison stating that “while prisoners are not entitled to full due process protections, disciplinary proceedings must include written notice to the defendant of the charges, a written statement of evidence, and the opportunity for an inmate to call witnesses and present evidence. The Court allowed for discretion by officials to deny a prisoner the right to present evidence or call witnesses if it would be “unduly hazardous to institutional safety.” The Court also held that prison official’s opening of privileged letters in the presence of other inmates was not unconstitutional.”(Oyez). Basically saying that what the prison did didn’t violate any rights at all. In my personal opinion I agree with the courts ruling on this trial how they stated that if you’re in jail you’re not entitled to all the rights of someone that isn’t in jail and I think this is fair in a sense that if you committed a terrible crime such as murdering someone and you were found guilty why should you have all of the same rights as someone who hasn’t committed a crime at all so I personally found ruling on the trail fair as well as when it came to checking their mail just to make sure that there isn’t any countryman they are allowed to read it I think that was that was fair to say the lease.



3. The fourteenth amendment is an important piece of legislation.  The first part of this amendment deals with procedural due process.  “Procedural due process is defined as the constitutional guarantee that no agent or instrumentality of government will use any procedures other than those procedures prescribed by law to arrest, prosecute, try, or punish any person” (Cole et al., 2016, 113).  One of the major cases that used the procedural due process of the fourteenth amendment was the case of Wolff v. McDonnell.  “The 1974 case of Wolff v. McDonnell extended certain due process rights.  The Supreme Court specified that when a prisoner faces serious disciplinary action that may result in segregation or the withdrawal of good time, the state must follow certain minimal procedures that conform to the guarantee of due process: (1) the prisoner must be given 24-hour written notice of the charges; (2) the prisoner has the right to present witnesses and documentary evidence in defense against the charges; (3) the prisoner has the right to a hearing before an impartial body; and (4) the prisoner has the right to receive a written statement from that body concerning the outcome of the hearing” (Cole et al., 2016, 113).  Overall I agree with the ruling of the court.  “The Court also held that prison official’s opening of privileged letters in the presence of other inmates was not unconstitutional.  Justice Thurgood Marshall dissent in part, stating that the inmate’s right to present evidence and call witnesses is constitutionally protected and should not be abridged” (White, n.d.).  I agree with this because opening an inmate’s mail would be to keep the other prisoners safe.  Especially while in prison, you never know what a prisoner might receive in their mail.  It could be drugs, weapons, or other dangerous objects that could be potentially smuggled into the prison.  Going through the inmates mail will only keep the other inmates and prison staff safe.


4. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”(Clear, Reisig, & Cole, 2016). This amendment has two important clauses which are the Procedural due process and equal protection. However in the 1974 Wolff v. McDonnell case there seemed to be an issue for one of the prisoners. Inmate McDonnell was not okay with the fact that the prison authorities were allowed to read his mail before he had the chance to do so. Therefore, a case was made to solve the issue. In conclusion, the Supreme Court had decided that, “Prison authorities would still have the right to open such mail in the presence of prisoners to ensure that such letters contained no contraband, but this would not include the right to read such correspondence” (Vile).  I do feel that the court properly decided the case because evidentially, it makes sense. I feel that the prisoner is still a human being and still has the right to read their own mail no matter what the circumstance of their sentence is. It is our right as a United States citizen to be able to read our own mail.


5. The fourteenth amendment dictates that ‘… nor shall any state… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law’.  The case Wolff vs. McDonell was a United States Supreme Court case that established that incarcerated persons retain some rights.  In Wolff vs. McDonell, Robert McDonell was an inmate in the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex.  McDonell filed a lawsuit against Wolff saying that the hearings conducted at the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex were heavily biased, that the legal assistance provided to inmates was seriously lacking, and mainly violated the guarantee under the law of due process.  Being that the court decided that due process applies even to inmates, the Supreme Court decided that inmates must be notified when they are being punished (having good-time credits removed) and must be followed by administrative hearings where the inmate can present witnesses and provide testimony.  I believe that the court was fair in their rendition of their decision because inmates, while they are in a facility as means of retribution, should not be denied basic human rights that an everyday citizen would expect, much like the fourteenth amendment cites.  Setting standards for the inmates to be able to present their own evidence at hearings evens the playing field and sets the system up to be more equal and less focused on solely the rights of the correctional officers.


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