Gates v. Collier
Gates v. Collier, 501 F.2d 1291 (5th Cir. 1974), was a landmark case decided in U.S. federal court that brought an end to the Trusty system and the flagrant inmate abuse that accompanied it at Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) in Sunflower County, Mississippi. It was the first case in a body of law developed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that a variety of forms of corporal punishment against prisoners constituted cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of Eighth Amendment rights. This case was also the first broad-scale intervention by a court in the supervision of prison practices.
In Gates v. Collier, the Court of Appeals found certain forms of corporal punishment violate the Eighth Amendment, including “handcuffing inmates to the fence and to cells for long periods of time, ... and forcing inmates to stand, sit or lie on crates, stumps, or otherwise maintain awkward positions for prolonged periods.”
After years of civil rights protests over the conditions at Parchman, including efforts by the Freedom Riders, civil rights lawyer Roy Haber began to systematically collect evidence of the abuse. Represented by Haber, four Parchman inmates brought suit against the prison superintendent in federal district court alleging violation of their civil rights under the United States Constitution by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.
In 1972 federal judge William C. Keady found in favor of the inmates, writing that Parchman Farm violated modern standards of decency. He ordered an immediate end to all unconstitutional conditions and practices. Racial segregation of inmates was abolished, and the trusty system, which allow certain inmates to have power and control over others, was also abolished.
- Louisiana State Penitentiary
- Cummins Unit - Arkansas and Texas
- Pervear v. Massachusetts
- Holt v. Sarver
- Ruiz v. Estelle - Texas
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