The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled inmates are not necessarily entitled to Miranda warnings when they are being investigated for alleged lawbreaking in prison. Typically, Miranda warnings that a suspect has the right to remain silent and have an attorney present have to be given once a person is detained and no longer free to leave.
In this case, suspected gang member Burton Cortez was handcuffed and questioned after guards found two metal shanks in his cell during a lockdown search of the state prison in Carson City.
With a recorder running, Cortez acknowledged the blades were his, and admitted he sold a third shank to another inmate. Prison officials say the main purpose of their interrogation was to gain information to help restore order following a string of gang-related fights, and to root out a plot to murder a guard.
That was enough for the trial court, and the Court of Appeals, to deny Cortez's motion to suppress his confession and the tape. The courts say Miranda warnings are not necessary when prison officials' top focus is to keep the peace, and not to determine whether a crime has been committed, or who is responsible.