Whether you’re in prison for the worst of the worst crime or something nonviolent, you still have the same basic rights as an American under the U.S. Constitution.
Inmates’ rights are a controversial topic sometimes, as some people believe in the mantra, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” but inmate abuse is a common occurrence in prisons across America.
If you have a family member or a friend in prison, you should be aware of the rights of inmates.
What are the basic rights of inmates?
Here are some of the most basic rights of people who are incarcerated:
- The right to humane living conditions and facilities: Extreme prison overcrowding, broken toilets and showers, and extreme heat or extreme cold are just a few things that prisoners should not be subjected to, because every prisoner has the right to humane conditions under the Eighth Amendment that outlines cruel and unusual punishment.
- The right to not be sexually assaulted: The Prison Rape Elimination Act protects prisoners from unwanted sexual contact behind bars. It’s an effort to fix the long-term problem with sexual abuse in prison.
- The right to not be segregated due to race: Inmates cannot legally be segregated in their cells or pods by race, unless exigent circumstances arise and the segregation is temporary and for security purposes.
- The right to file a complaint: If an inmate believes he or she is being treated unfairly, the inmate must have an avenue by which to air his or her grievances. One method is to file a federal complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, which investigates allegations of civil rights abuses in institutions and also investigates police brutality. Police brutality can extend to corrections officers in prisons.
- The right to adequate medical care: Whether it’s a short-term illness like the flu, or a long-term condition, inmates have the right to be treated by medical professionals in a timely and competent manner. This includes the right to mental health care, as a large number of prisoners in America suffer from mental illness.
- The rights afforded under the First Amendment: Inmates have the right to read, write, speak, pray, practice religion, and communicate with the outside world. These rights can be curtailed in some ways — prison guards can read your mail and monitor your phone calls — but they are still rights that all inmates have unless they have lost them because of disciplinary or security issues.
If you or someone you love has had their civil rights violated in prison, you need the help of an experienced civil rights attorney. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.