Eugene Murphy


One of the several anomalies of prison life is the disparate protection afforded inmates transferred to higher security. Although both punitive and administrative transfers often place the inmate in the same building under almost identical conditions, only disciplinary transfers are generally conceded to give rise to due process protection. The inmate confined in isolation for fifteen days as punishment for misconduct is guaranteed a hearing with advance written notice and the rights to present testimony and receive a written decision. On the other hand, the prisoner confined indefinitely in segregation for supposed administrative reasons has such due process rights only if the state decides to provide them. Consequently, the most severe sentence that can be handed down by a committee hearing a disciplinary charge is not fifteen days in isola- tion or loss of good time, but rather the vague and foreboding phrase "referred for high security." This article will discuss the background and application of the distinction between the punitive and administrative elements of prison transfers, focusing upon its effects on the due process rights of inmates in Virginia prisons.

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