Even the inmates (or offenders), the more chronic or dangerous are entitled to basic rights protected by the Constitution of the united States. If you are facing a jail sentence, you should know your rights. If you have a family member or friend in jail or prison, you must also know what your rights are.
- The pre-trial detainees (those citizens who can’t pay bail and, therefore, are to be detained until the trial) have the right to be housed in facilities worthy. In addition, pretrial detainees cannot be “punished” or treated as guilty while they await trial.
- The prisoners (or inmates) have a right, under the eighth amendment, not to suffer inhuman conditions because those conditions constitute a punishment “cruel and unusual”. The term “cruel and unusual” was not defined at the time of approving the amendment, but the Supreme Court stressed in 1848 that such punishments would include “cracked, gutting a person alive, beheading, dissection and public incineration of a living person”, among other things. Today, many of these punishments may seem outdated, but the scope of the basic protection remains the same. Any punishment that could be considered inhumane treatment or that violates the basic concept of the dignity of a person can be considered cruel and unusual.
Example: In 1995, a federal court in Massachusetts found that they violated the constitutional rights of prisoners to house them in a prison of 150 years, infested by vermin, with fire hazards and lack of health.
- Inmates have the right not to be subjected to sexual crimes, including sexual harassment.
Example: A federal court of the District of Columbia pleaded guilty to prison officers for the sexual harassment, rape, sodomy, assault and other systematic abuse of female prisoners female on the part of members of prison staff. The court also stated that the facilities of the prison were dilapidated, that there was a lack of adequate medical care and the prisoners were programs of lower category than male prisoners within the same system.
- Inmates have the right to denounce prison conditions and to voice their concerns about the treatment they receive. You also have the right to access the courts to express these complaints.
Example: A federal court in Iowa recently awarded a prisoner over $7,000 in damages to discover that he had been locked up in solitary confinement for a year and then transferred to another facility in which your life was in danger simply for complaining about prison conditions and filed a lawsuit to oppose the conditions of his detention.
- Inmates with disabilities have the right to enforce its rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure they are allowed access to the programs and facilities of the prison in which they can participate.
- Inmates have the right to receive medical care as needed to treat both conditions in the short-term and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be “adequate”.
- Inmates who need mental health care have the right to receive such treatment in a way that is appropriate according to the circumstances. The treatment must also be “adequate”.
- Inmates retain only those first amendment rights, such as freedom of expression, which are not contrary to their status as inmates and which meet the legitimate objectives of the prison system, such as the preservation of order, discipline and security. In this sense, the prison officers are entitled to open mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not contain any item that is unlawful or weapons, but may not censor portions of correspondence that they just seem obscene or disrespectful.
Note: inmates do not have the right to have interviews face-to-face with journalists or media representatives. The justification for this limitation is that the media are not authorized to have access to inmates that members of the general public might not have.
- Inmates have the right not to suffer racial segregation in prisons, except when necessary to preserve discipline and security in prison.
- The prisoners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prison cells and are not protected from “body checks” or reviews of their cells for weapons, drugs or other types of contraband.
- Inmates have the right, pursuant to the clause of due process of the Constitution, not to suffer the deprivation intentional and unauthorized viewing of your personal property on the part of prison officers.
- The Supreme Court has determined that prisoners subject to investigations or disciplinary proceedings have the right to submit a written notice of the alleged violation and a written statement of the facts, the evidence on which they are based, and the reason for the action to start. The inmates also have the right to call witnesses and to present documentary evidence if doing so does not threaten the order, discipline and security. In that regard, inmates are rarely allowed to confront and cross-examine witnesses in disciplinary proceedings, internal.
Note: In most cases, the prisoners have no right to representation by counsel in a disciplinary process.
- Inmates have the right to a hearing if the transfer to a mental health center. However, inmates do not always have the right to a hearing if they move from one center to another similar.
- Inmates with mental illness do not have the right to a full hearing before the government can force them to take antipsychotics against their will. Simply reaches with an administrative hearing before independent medical professionals.
In 1996, Congress passed the Act Prison Litigation Reform (Prison Litigation Reform Act, PLRA), which many critics have considered it a access unfairly limited the prisoners the federal court system. The PLRA contains five major provisions:
- Inmates must exhaust the grievance procedures inmates of the prison before filing a lawsuit in a federal court.
- Prisoners must pay the filing fees court either in one payment or in a series of monthly installments.
- The courts have the right to dismiss the demands of the inmates that they determine to be “frivolous”, “malicious”, or to submit a claim improper. Each time a court makes this decision, the cause may be dismissed, and the inmate may have a “lack” against you. Once the inmate has three “faults”, you can no longer file another lawsuit unless they pay all the charge of the court filing in advance.
Note: If inmates are at risk of serious physical injury and immediate, can be waived the standard three fouls.
- Inmates may not submit a claim for mental injury or emotional unless they can show that they also suffered a physical injury.
- The inmates risk the loss of the trust for a long time if a judge determines that the petition was filed in order to harass, that the inmate lied, or that he submitted false information.