The prison population in the United States is experiencing a period of tremendous growth. Due to the inability of prison construction to keep pace with this growth, prison facilities throughout the country have become severely overcrowded. "The typical prison of the last third of the twentieth century has changed relatively little from the institutions of 150 years earlier." Inmates, forced to live under these conditions, have flocked to the courts seeking relief. Yet, until its 1981 decision in Rhodes v. Chapman, the United States Supreme Court had never reviewed a case in which particular prison conditions were challenged as constituting cruel and unusual punishment.
Elizabeth F. Edwards & Nancy G. LaGow,
Prison Overcrowding as Cruel and Unusual Punishment in Light of Rhodes v. Chapman,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol16/iss3/6