Assessing Hudson v. McMillan Ten Years Later

Darrell L. Ross, East Carolina University

Claims of excessive force continue to be frequent prisoner allegations litigated in accordance with the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court in Hudson v. McMillan (1992) held that excessive physical force may violate a prisoner's constitutional right despite the absence of a serious injury to the prisoner. Using a content analysis, this paper examines the trends and patterns of federal circuit court decisions in 1,000 cases from 1992 to 2002. Analysis of the impact of this case on correctional liability, five categories of force, agency management of force, and policy and training issues are presented. Future research concerns and strategies to reduce litigation are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006