Prison Jury Trials

The Champion, Vol. 29, No. 10, 2005

29 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2005 Last revised: 13 Dec 2007


As of December 2007, seven state appellate courts have publicly acknowledged and reviewed the holding of criminal jury trials at state prisons (Ohio, Alaska, Oregon, Virginia, California, Utah and Mississippi). The use of prison courtrooms has been requested on grounds of courtroom security and to promote judicial efficiencies, despite the complete lack of empirical support for either. The practice is predominantly rural, and found in communities where the prison itself is a major employer. The use of prison courtrooms is troubling when examined against the constitutional mandate of separation of powers, as it co-mingles executive and judicial branch locales and duties. The article collects and reviews the appellate opinions issued to date that have commented or ruled on prison jury trials (1977-2005). Such documentation reflects that court-appointed criminal defense counsel are often unprepared at trial and thus unable on appeal to fully litigate the issues surrounding the use of a prison courtroom. This article provides sufficient factual and legal information and inquiry to be used as a tool to improve state and federal appellate review of this practice, and to instigate needed meaningful public policy discussion and legislative scrutiny of the use of prison courtrooms. The prison courtroom environment, and its physical and psychological impact on jurors, court staff, and litigants is discussed.

Keywords: prison, courtroom, jury, juror, criminal, trial, security, policy, separation, powers, executive, branch, judicial

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K14, K32, K4, K40, K41, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Jade, Rose, Prison Jury Trials. The Champion, Vol. 29, No. 10, 2005, Available at SSRN:

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