I have read comments on my Facebook page from people who state prisoners deserve every bad thing that happens to them inside. No, they don’t. But the rights listed below are constantly ignored by the prisons because no one oversees whether they abide by them.
What Are a Prisoner’s Rights?
Prisoner’s Rights Law deals with the rights of inmates while behind bars. Many of these laws relate to fundamental human rights and civil liberties.
Cruel and Unusual Punishments – Every inmate has the right to be free under the Eighth Amendment from inhumane treatment or anything that could be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment. Unfortunately, the Eighth Amendment did not clearly define what “cruel and unusual” punishment includes, meaning much of the definition has derived from case law. Generally speaking, any punishment that is considered inhumane treatment, like torture or abuse, or a violation of a person’s basic dignity may be considered cruel and unusual within the discretion of the court.
Sexual Harassment or Sex Crimes – Inmates have a right to be free from sexual harassment or sex crimes, like being raped or molested while in custody. This applies to crimes or harassment from both inmates and prison personnel.
Right to Complain About Prison Conditions and Access to the Courts – Inmates have the right both to complain about prison conditions and to voice their concerns to prison officials and the courts.
Disabled Prisoners – Inmates with disabilities are entitled to certain reasonable accommodations under the American with Disabilities Act to ensure they receive the same access to prison facilities as those who are not disabled.
Medical and Mental Health Care – Prisoners are entitled to receive medical care and mental health treatment. These treatments are only required to be “adequate,” not the best available or even the standard treatment for those outside of incarceration.
First Amendment Rights – Inmates retain basic First Amendment rights (i.e., free speech and religion), but only to the extent that the exercise of those rights do not interfere with their status as inmates.
Discrimination – Inmates have the right to be free from discrimination while imprisoned. This includes racial segregation, disparate treatment based on ethnicity or religion, or preferences based on age, among others.
If you have questions about what rights an inmate has (or will have) under specific circumstances, you can review the materials below and should also contact a local attorney familiar with criminal law. You can find a list of attorneys in your area on our Civil Rights Law Firms page.
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