Seventh Circuit Review


While the Eighth Amendment holds that a convicted inmate may be punished if that punishment is not “cruel and unusual,” due process requires that a pretrial detainee not be punished at all. In 1979, the Supreme Court declared that the rights of a pretrial detainee are “at least as great” as those afforded a convicted prisoner. The Seventh Circuit’s recent decision Klebanowski v. Sheahan illustrates the modern trend of using the same “deliberate indifference” standard used to analyze convicted prisoners’ § 1983 claims when analyzing pretrial detainees’ § 1983 claims. By scrutinizing the way modern courts assess pretrial detainees’ § 1983 claims against prison officials for failure to safeguard inmates from other inmates, this article will assert that the American justice system has strayed dangerously far from the important distinction between convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees. That the state does not acquire the power to punish until after it has secured a formal adjudication of guilt is a rudimentary American principle in danger of extinction. Employing the deliberate indifference standard created for convicted prisoners’ § 1983 claims to analyze pretrial detainees’ claims amounts to punishment of the pretrial detainee.

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