When inmates face incarceration, they still maintain rights. Even though inmates have rights that need to be protected, violations happen frequently in the prison system. Incarcerated inmates are often treated poorly and as if they don’t have any rights because they are in prison, but that’s not true.
That’s why knowing the legal rights of incarcerated inmates is so important—it ensures you know when an inmate’s rights are being violated so you can make a report or take legal action about the violation. Let’s take a look at the rights that inmates maintain in prison.
Prisoner’s Rights in the United States
In the United States, inmates still maintain rights when they’re incarcerated. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lists many of the frequently violated rights of people in prison and the federal law that correlates to those rights.
Just because a person is incarcerated doesn’t mean they deserve abuse or rights violations. That’s why it’s essential to know prisoners’ rights. While this article is a great resource, laws are always being updated, and new information comes out. It’s important to stay up to date so you’re always protected.
Below are some of the legal rights that incarcerated inmates have.
Freedom from Assault and Excessive Force
One of the main violations that inmates face is assault and use of excessive force, which violates their Eighth Amendment rights. Although brief, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution states that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted. When broken down, this applies to the treatment of prisoners.
This means that correctional officers and other workers at prisons are obligated to refrain from using excessive force on a prisoner. Of course, this term can be subjective, but excessive force typically has malicious intent or is a used as punishment for a prisoner.
Officers are also obligated to protect prisoners from assault or the risk of assault. This could be physically protecting the prisoner, or ensuring they have proper staffing, functioning locks, and reasonable knowledge of what’s going on in the prison.
If officers know there is a risk of assault for a prisoner and fail to act, or if they take too long to respond to an assault, this could be a violation of a prisoner’s rights.
Freedom from Religious Discrimination
Inmates retain this part of the First Amendment, although much of the rest of that amendment is surrendered upon entering prison. Inmates have the right to religious freedom, and should not face discrimination based upon their religious beliefs. Inmates maintain the ability to practice their own religion.
A prison cannot impose religious practices upon you, and in certain situations, they’ll be required to cater to your religious diet if you need kosher or halal meals, for example. Prisons could also be required to give you access to worship services, clergy members, religious texts, religious clothing, and grooming practices specific to your religious beliefs.
Freedom from Gender Discrimination
Inmates must be free from discrimination based on sex and gender. More specifically, transgender inmates have the right to be protected and have special housing placements depending on the level of danger they are in. According to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), prisons must take a transgender or intersex person’s opinion on their own safety into consideration as well when placing them in housing.
Typically, to protect transgender inmates, they will be placed in solitary confinement, but they must still have access to the same programs, work, and education as much as possible. They must also be given supplies and clothing that align with a prisoner’s gender identity, otherwise it could be a rights violation.
As a prisoner, you still have the right to prenatal, postpartum, and other medical care related to your pregnancy. If you choose, you also maintain the right to an abortion, but cannot be forced to have an abortion if you do not want one.
Additionally, some institutions could have laws against shackling pregnant or recently postpartum inmates. It’s important to know if your facility follows this standard to know if your rights are being violated while incarcerated and pregnant.
Rights of Disabled Inmates
In prisons, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) still applies since prisons are federal facilities. This means incarcerated people with disabilities need to be provided with proper accommodations and facilities that are needed for their disabilities.
This means appropriate housing, activity and work opportunities, modifications, and communication aids are all required for disabled inmates. Additionally, disabled inmates cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their disability.
Freedom to Send and Receive Mail
Incarcerated people have the right to receive publications as well as the right to send and receive mail, which is another area of the First Amendment that is maintained even in prison. While they have the right to subscribe to publications, send mail, and receive mail, it can all be inspected to ensure the contents are allowed in the facility.
Most facilities have standards that outline which kinds of publications are allowed, and what kind of mail you can send and receive. All of this is subject to censorship at the facility’s discretion. This censorship could be valid because of their established policies, but sometimes it could be a rights violation if it’s unfounded.
You can always challenge censorship if you believe your rights have been violated.
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When Rights Have Been Violated
Now that you know the rights that incarcerated people maintain when they enter prisons and other facilities and can recognize when those rights could have been violated, you should know what you can do about those human rights violations to stand up for yourself or an inmate.
Many times, if you believe your rights have been violated while incarcerated, you’ll need to file a grievance. If you have experienced multiple instances of human rights violations while in prison, then you will need to file a grievance for each of these violations. That way, you are showing a pattern of behavior.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), grievance procedures could vary from institution to institution, but each must have one. You’ll need to find out what the procedure is for your prison so that you can follow the correct process. You’ll also want to file as soon as possible so that you do so within the timeline, which is typically short.
If the violations persist or you have other problems, you could use the help of a lawyer to protect your rights and get you justice.
Madia Newville LLC Can Fight for You
Inmates deserve to have their rights maintained just as much as people who are not incarcerated. That’s why it’s important that incarcerated people have access to the legal help they need. At Madia Newville, we are dedicated to standing up for people whose rights have been violated.
Our civil rights and police misconduct lawyers are here to represent incarcerated inmates whose rights have been violated. Reach out to our office today so we can get started working for you and building your case.