Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 9 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

tions, we must ascertain whether the officials involved acted with "deliberate indifference" to the inmates' health or safety. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U. S. 1, 8 (1992). We may infer the existence of this subjective state of mind from the fact that the risk of harm is obvious. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 842 (1994).

As the facts are alleged by Hope, the Eighth Amendment violation is obvious. Any safety concerns had long since abated by the time petitioner was handcuffed to the hitching post because Hope had already been subdued, handcuffed, placed in leg irons, and transported back to the prison. He was separated from his work squad and not given the opportunity to return to work. Despite the clear lack of an emergency situation, the respondents knowingly subjected him to a substantial risk of physical harm, to unnecessary pain caused by the handcuffs and the restricted position of confinement for a 7-hour period, to unnecessary exposure to the heat of the sun, to prolonged thirst and taunting, and to a deprivation of bathroom breaks that created a risk of particular discomfort and humiliation.8 The use of the hitching post under these circumstances violated the "basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment[, which] is nothing less than the dignity of man." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86, 100 (1958). This punitive treatment amounts to gratuitous infliction of "wanton and unnecessary" pain that our precedent clearly prohibits.

8 The awareness of the risk of harm attributable to any individual respondent may be evaluated in part by considering the pattern of treatment that inmates generally received when attached to the hitching post. In Austin v. Hopper, the District Court cited examples of humiliating incidents resulting from the denial of bathroom breaks. One inmate "was not permitted to use the restroom or to change his clothing for four and one-half hours after he had defecated on himself." 15 F. Supp. 2d, at 1246. "Moreover, certain corrections officers not only ignored or denied inmates' requests for water or access to toilet facilities, but taunted them while they were clearly suffering from dehydration . . . ." Id., at 1247.

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