The Hands-Off Doctrine

The Hands-Off Doctrine is the historical guideline of American courts to allow the prison administration to function independently in prisons as they deemed fit. It stated that Correctional administration must be left to the prison experts.

The courts upheld to the hands-off policy with regard to prisons till Cooper v. Pate (1964) which awarded prisoners the right to prosecute for guard cruelty, brutal conditions, poor nutrition and medical care, robbery of private property, and dissent of basic rights. The Supreme Court stated that state prison convicts possess the capability to litigate in federal court to have their complaints addressed according to Civil Rights Act of 1871  (US Supreme Court, 1964). I support this decision with the reason that when a person becomes a convict they do not cease to be human beings therefore their rights must be upheld.

In Arkansas, Talley v. Stevens case (1965) is generally considered as being the very first “breach” towards the hands-off doctrine (Shook & Sigler 2001). This case ended in the banning of physical punishment till Arkansas comes up with apparent corrective values for when a prisoner could be whipped or caned (the state never came up with any guidelines, so corporal punishment of convicts got abolished, thus making it the next convict right to be acquired). The Arkansas state had its whole prison system stated unlawful a few years (Leagle, 2014). I strongly support this decision since I suppose a convict has already paid for his offences through incarceration therefore whipping is inhumane and illegal.

The  convicts Eighth Amendment privilege of cruel & unusual penalty are activated the instance prison officials breach a intentional indifference standard, which basically means disregarding severe medical troubles or conditions that adds up to wanton and needless imposition of pain. However, the convicts Fourth Amendment privileges of unwarranted search and privacy are sternly constricted (Gilreath, 2010).


Gilreath, S. (2010). Cruel and Unusual Punishment and the Eighth Amendment as a Mandate for Human Dignity: Another Look at Original Intent 25th Anniversary Special Supplemental Issue.

Gilreath, S. (2010). Cruel and Unusual Punishment and the Eighth Amendment as a Mandate for Human Dignity: Another Look at Original Intent 25th Anniversary Special Supplemental Issue.

Leagle. (2014). TALLEY v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION | Retrieved August 1, from

Shook, C. & Sigler, R. (2001). Constitutional Issues in Correctional Administration. Durham: Carolina Academic Press

US Supreme Court. (1964). Cooper v. Pate :: 378 U.S. 546 (1964) :: Justia US Supreme Court Center. Retrieved August 1, from

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