Are the Rights of Prisoners Limited Because of Their Incarceration ?

In Allen v. Cuomo (100 F3d 253, 260, supra), plaintiff inmates brought a class action under 42 USC § 1983, challenging the constitutionality of a Department of Correctional Services regulation which imposed a $ 5 surcharge on inmates who had committed serious prison violations.

The plaintiffs alleged that the surcharge was violative of equal protection guarantees because it did not explicitly contain a hardship waiver for indigent inmates even though other mandatory surcharges imposed by the State of New York did provide for such waivers. (See, id.)

Contrary to what the AG argues, the Court of Appeals did not reason so broadly as to conclude that for all purposes, inmates are not similarly situated to noninmates.

Rather, what the Court of Appeals specifically stated was that "[i]nmates are not similarly situated to unincarcerated persons subject to other surcharges ... the rights of prisoners are necessarily limited because of their incarceration, not to mention that all their essential needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care are provided by the state." ( Allen v. Cuomo, supra, 100 F3d, at 260-261.)