Rights of Inmates in Prisons and Jails

What Rights Do Prisoners Have?

handcuffs on a green prison jail cell

Although data shows that incarceration rates are decreasing in the U.S., former and current inmates still face civil rights violations. Correctional officers may illegally use excessive force against inmates, deny medical care, or treat inmates harshly due to their race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.  Inmates have constitutional rights that offer protection from violations of their rights. When correctional facilities violate these rights, inmates or their family members may have options to hold the offending parties accountable for their actions.

Prisoner Rights and Privileges

Prisoner rights and privileges depend on the situation. While prisoners may not have the same rights as members of the general population due to incarceration, correctional officers and facilities must still follow policies and procedures to respect constitutional rights. Inmates may also exercise rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court and legislation have further solidified certain protections. Rights in prison include:

  • Access to humane conditions
  • Access to adequate medical care
  • The right to complain about prison or jail conditions
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment

Eighth Amendment Rights in Prison

The Eighth Amendment provides protection from cruel and unusual punishment. What defines cruel and unusual punishment depends on the circumstances. Punishments that include inhumane treatment may be a violation of constitutional rights. In addition, correctional facilities must afford prisoners a minimal standard of living. Inmates may complain about prison or jail conditions without interference from correctional officers. If correctional officers attempt to punish the prisoner for complaining, that may be a violation of that person’s rights.

Speaking with a lawyer can help you determine if a correctional facility violated yours or a family member’s rights.

Medical Care for Prisoners

The Eighth Amendment also protects inmates with medical needs. U.S. prisons contain dense populations of individuals affected by conditions like HIV and diabetes. HIV and diabetes are examples of chronic health conditions that may not be fatal with adequate treatment. Prisons and jails must provide adequate treatment for health conditions. Prisoners can suffer serious injuries or death when they do not receive adequate medical attention.

Prisoners with disabilities also may not receive vital medical care. Inmates with disabilities are protected under the ADA.

Discrimination in Prison

Some of the same anti-discrimination laws that apply outside of prison also apply in prison. By law, correctional facilities may not discriminate against inmates. Studies have shown, however, that black and Latino prisoners are more likely to face punishments than white prisoners.

Additionally, correctional facilities must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled prisoners. Subjecting a disabled prisoner to harmful or humiliating conditions may be a violation of that person’s rights.

How Grant & Eisenhofer Civil Rights Lawyers Can Help

Depending on the circumstances, prisoners or their family members may be able to file lawsuits for rights violations. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to violations of your rights, reach out to a Grant & Eisenhofer civil rights lawyer to determine whether you can file a lawsuit. Grant & Eisenhofer’s civil rights attorneys can help investigate your claim and may be able to help you seek compensation for your damages. Call (855) 244-2031 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.