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Thursday, March 23, 2006 

Judge Posner: "Keep Your Pants On."

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in a Wisconsin prisoner's cruel and unusual punishment claim today. Freeman, an inmate with a wonderfully ironic last name, is currently housed in the Supermax prison. The prison has rules about prisoner behavior when receiving meals. One of these rules states that the prisoners must be wearing pants or gym shorts. Mr. Freeman, perhaps yearning for any kind of freedom, decided on numerous occasions that he didn't want to wear pants. The prison refused to give him meals unless he put on some pants. As a result of Freeman's below-the-belt disobedience, he lost 45 pounds. The cruel and unusual punishment lawsuit followed.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel consisting of himself, Judge Frank Easterbrook, and Judge Diane Wood, Judge Richard Posner affirmed the trial judge's ruling in favor of the prison.

Judge Richard Posner

Here is what Posner had to say...
...there is a difference between using food deprivation as a punishment and establishing a reasonable condition to the receipt of food.
He continues...
The pants requirement may not seem a reasonable condition on receiving food but it is. In the words of the appellees' lawyer in his opening statement to the jury, "There are two primary reasons. Number one, there are a lot of women security officers working in this facility so they are entitled to basic privacy. Secondly, there are security issues. Inmates throw urine, feces, expose themselves, ejaculate, and to prevent that from happening to any security officer, there is a rule that the inmate must be clothed."
Posner goes on two cite a few exceptions where the prison would have to force feed the prisoner to prevent him from seriously endangering his life. However Mr. Freeman's weight loss was because of his own bad behavior (which also included the ever popular painting of the walls with blood and shit), so his loss of meals was his fault.

Judge Posner is always a delight to read. Not to sound like too much of a hometown cheerleader, but I love the 7th Circuit. We have the best cases and the best judges.

Ummm.. What fool even let this case get to a court? Has the judiciary lost it's collective mind? Anyone wonder why most people have no faith in it? Does the word "waste" come to mind?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Article III, where everybody has a claim. They usually take cases like this to settle the matter for good.

What's nice is that the 7th Circuit can take the appeal, knock it down unanimously with a panel consisting of Posner (a conservative libertarian appointed by Reagan), Easterbrook (a conservative textualist appointed by Reagan), and Wood (a law prof appointed by Clinton), and it's done. There's no way that an appeal of this kind will be taken up by the Supreme Court.

The 7th made quick work of it, yet managed to completely explore the issue.

Understood. That being said, I want to go back to a time when criminals had nothing but basic human rights. Period. No t.v., no weights, nothing but 3 hots and a cot, with hard labor. Nothing else. You committed a crime, now you pay for it. End of story. And yes, I am a hardass when it comes to crime.

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  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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