Media for Wilkinson v. AustinAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 2005 in Wilkinson v. Austin
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 2005 in Wilkinson v. Austin
Anthony M. Kennedy:
Evaluating the efficiency of particular prison procedure requires consideration of the three factors we set forth in our decision in Mathews versus Eldridge: The first is the inmate's interest, the second is the risk of erroneous deprivation and the third is the state's interest.
Application of these three factors demonstrates Ohio's new policy does provide a sufficient level of due process.
The opinion discusses the problem of gang violence in prisons.
Supermax prisons are in part a response to the increase in prison violence by prison gangs which impose an increasing threat to prison security.
Clandestine, organized, fuel by race based hostility and committed to fear and violence as a means of disciplining their own members and their rival, these gangs seek nothing less than to control prison life and to extend their power outside prison walls.
Murder of an inmate, a guard, or one of the family members on the outside is a common form of gang discipline and control.
Committing murder can even be a condition of the gang membership.
Testifying against or otherwise, informing on gang activities can invite a death sentence for the informant.
Given the circumstances prison administrators face, we think that informal non-adversary procedures are all that are required in making assignments to Supermax.
Ohio's new policy provides such informal non-adversary procedures and no further procedural modifications were in order.
The Court of Appeals was correct to find the inmates possess a liberty interest in avoiding assignment at Supermax but it was incorrect to sustain the procedural modifications ordered by the District Court.
So, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
We remand the case for further proceedings consistent with our opinions and the opinion of the Court is unanimous.