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Entire Tennessee Prison System Found Unconstitutional

By Brandon Sample

On August 23, 1978, the Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tennessee declared the entire Tennessee prison system to be unconstitutional.

Under the Tennessee constitution, prisoners are entitled to “humane treatment” and to confinement in “safe and comfortable” prisons. The Tennessee prison system operated in violation of these guarantees, the court held.

The court found numerous deprivations, including (1) an unmanageable and nonfunctioning classification system; (2) idleness and a lack of meaningful work; (3) inadequate educational, vocational, and recreational programs and facilities; (4) inadequate mental and medical health services, care and facilities; (5) overcrowded and archaic housing units; (6) unsanitary and unhealthy physical conditions in the living and food service areas; (7) substandard heating; (8) violence and the constant fear of assault.

The court appointed a special muster to remedy the violations. The prisoners were represented by the ACLU National Prison Project. See: Trigg v. Blanton, No. A-6067 (Chancery Ct. Davidson Co., Tenn.)

Source: Prison Law Monitor of Institutional Educational Services, Inc.

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Related legal case

Trigg v. Blanton