LARRY HOPE, PETITIONER
MARK PELZER et al.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
[June 27, 2002]
Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit concluded that petitioner Larry Hope, a
former prison inmate at the Limestone Prison in Alabama, was subjected to cruel and
unusual punishment when prison guards twice handcuffed him to a hitching post to
sanction him for disruptive conduct. Because that conclusion was not supported by
earlier cases with “materially similar” facts, the court held that the respondents were
entitled to qualified immunity, and therefore affirmed summary judgment in their favor.
We granted certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals’ qualified immunity
holding comports with our decision in
520 U.S. 259
In 1995, Alabama was the only State that followed the practice of chaining inmates
to one another in work squads. It was also the only State that handcuffed prisoners to
“hitching posts” if they either refused to work or otherwise disrupted work squads.
Hope was handcuffed to a hitching post on two occasions. On May 11, 1995, while
Hope was working in a chain gang near an interstate highway, he got into an argument
with another inmate. Both men were taken back to the Limestone prison and
handcuffed to a hitching post. Hope was released two hours later, after the guard
captain determined that the altercation had been caused by the other inmate. During
his two hours on the post, Hope was offered drinking water and a bathroom break
every 15 minutes, and his responses to these offers were recorded on an activity log.
Because he was only slightly taller than the hitching post, his arms were above
shoulder height and grew tired from being handcuffed so high. Whenever he tried
moving his arms to improve his circulation, the handcuffs cut into his wrists, causing
pain and discomfort.
On June 7, 1995, Hope was punished more severely. He took a nap during the
morning bus ride to the chain gang’s worksite, and when it arrived he was less than
prompt in responding to an order to get off the bus. An exchange of vulgar remarks led
to a wrestling match with a guard. Four other guards intervened, subdued Hope,
handcuffed him, placed him in leg irons and transported him back to the prison where
he was put on the hitching post. The guards made him take off his shirt, and he
remained shirtless all day while the sun burned his skin.
He remained attached to the
post for approximately seven hours. During this 7-hour period, he was given water only
once or twice and was given no bathroom breaks.
At one point, a guard taunted Hope
about his thirst. According to Hope’s affidavit: “[The guard] first gave water to some
dogs, then brought the water cooler closer to me, removed its lid, and kicked the cooler
over, spilling the water onto the ground.” App. 11.