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43 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 469 (2011-2012)
The Iron Curtain Redrawn between Prisoners and the Constitution

handle is hein.journals/colhr43 and id is 475 raw text is: THE IRON CURTAIN REDRAWN BETWEEN
Derek Borchardt*
[An inmate's right of unfettered access to the courts
is as fundamental a right as any other he may hold. .
. . All other rights of an inmate are illusory without it,
being entirely dependent for their existence on the
whim or caprice of the prison warden.'
For much of American history, federal courts considered
prisons' internal operations off limits.2 But in the 1960s and 1970s,
courts began to look inside prison walls. They were shocked by what
they saw. Courts declared some prisons to be unfit for human
habitation,' a dark and evil world completely alien to the free
world,' and so inhumane and degrading as to amount to cruel and
unusual punishment.' Justice Blackmun lamented that a youthful
* J.D. Candidate 2012, Columbia Law School.
1.   Adams v. Carlson, 488 F.2d 619, 630 (7th Cir. 1973).
2.   See generally Note and Comment, Beyond the Ken of the Courts: A
Critique of Judicial Refusal to Review the Complaints of Convicts, 72 Yale L.J.
506, 507 (1963) [hereinafter Beyond the Ken of the Courts] (discussing the hands-
off doctrine); see also Alison Brill, Note, Rights Without Remedy: The Myth of
State Accessibility After the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 30 Cardozo L. Rev. 645,
652 & n.38 (2008); Banning v. Looney, 213 F.2d 771, 771 (10th Cir. 1954) (Courts
are without power to supervise prison administration or to interfere with the
ordinary prison rules or regulations. Neither have we power to inquire with
respect to the prisoner's detention in the Lewisburg Prison. No authorities are
needed to support those statements. The appeal is wholly without merit.); Gore v.
United States, 357 U.S. 386, 393 (1958) (Frankfurter, J.) (In effect, we are asked
to enter the domain of penology, and more particularly . . . the proper
apportionment of punishment.. . . This Court has no such power.).
3.   Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318, 323-24 (M.D. Ala. 1976), rev'd in part
sub nom., Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978).
4.   Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 681 (1978) (finding the District Court's
characterization of Arkansas penal facilities as a dark and evil world to be
amply supported by the evidence).
5.   Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 451 F. Supp. 893, 898 (E.D. Pa.

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