CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ronner on Miranda and Prisons

Ronner amyAmy Ronner (St. Thomas University - School of Law) has posted Recreating Dead House: The Ouster of Miranda from Our Prisons (Criminal Law Bulletin Vol. 50 (1),Thomson Reuters/West, 2014) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Feodor Dostoevsky's Notes From the House of the Dead takes place in the mid-Nineteenth Century in a remote region of Russia and we, as readers tend to comfort ourselves with its temporal and geographical distance. That is, we handle the atrocities, torture, and horror of prison by telling ourselves, at least on an unconscious level, that it all happened way back when, and that Siberia, so many light years away, could almost be another planet. If, however, we are courageous enough to let go of such denial, we likely realize that Dostoevsky has an important message, one which pertains to the here and now and to the prisons in our own backyard.

On its broadest level, this Article aims to show how the United States Supreme Court is effectually recreating Dead House through its post-Miranda decisions.

Part II begins with Dead House itself, anatomizing the prison environment that conspires to strip Siberian inmates of free will and human dignity. Dostoevsky's prison is hell, comprised of excessive regulation, coercion, and futility. Its inhabitants endure prolonged cognitive dissonance, in which they are lonely but never alone. Compounding that, prisoners are fettered, sometimes chained to a wall, and redundantly lashed in a manner preordained to pulverize body and soul.

Part III, shifting from Dostoevsky's Russia to the United States, reviews the rise and fall of free will and human dignity under seminal Due Process Clause and Miranda cases. It summarizes the progressive dismemberment of Miranda, which denigrates the very goals behind its once sacrosanct protections. Part IV, shifting to those cases, which take place inside prison, discusses how the Supreme Court, at least initially, deemed inmates entitled to the remnants of Miranda safeguards. Part V analyzes the more recent decisions, like Maryland v. Shatzer, 130 S.Ct. 1213 (2010) and Howes v. Fields, 132 S.Ct. 1181 (2012), which make Miranda categorically unavailable to prisoners. Through its effectual overruling of Miranda, along with its total ouster of Miranda from our prisons, the Supreme Court has encouraged the replication of the very conditions that define Dead House.

Part VI, the Conclusion, essentially revisiting Dostoevsky's thesis, discloses how the effect of the Supreme Court's post-Miranda decisions are not confined to our penal system. Rather, they transmit a message, which imprisons, detriments, and flogs us all.

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