Although individuals who are incarcerated have lost either permanently or temporarily several rights and privileges that the rest of us take for granted, prisoners in state custody still possess several important civil rights that the government must recognize even in prison. Here’s what you should know about the rights of inmates in Florida and federal prisons if you or someone you love ends up a long-term guest of the state.
Right To Express Complaints
Inmates in state or federal custody have the right to approach prison administrators to air their complaints about the conditions of their incarceration. They also have the right to formally address complaints to the court system and to bring suits in order to compel the prison to change or remedy conditions.
Right To Mental Health Care
Prisoners in the United States who need professional mental health care are entitled to such care as long as it is appropriate for the circumstances and are adequate in the view of the court.
Right To Health Care In General
Prisoners also have the right to medical care and attention while incarcerated for both short- and long-term ailments, and that too must be adequate in the view of the court.
Right To Not Be Racially Segregated
Although prisons are frequently segregated by race for prison security reasons, inmates have the right to not be racially segregated if they do not wish it.
Right To Accommodations For Disabilities
Portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act also applies to prisons. Prison administration must allow prisoners with disabilities to access prison programs in which they are otherwise qualified to participate.
Right To Not Be A Victim Of Sexual Crime
In 2003, the United States Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The act’s purpose was to
“provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in federal, state, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.”
The Act tasked the Bureau of Justice Statistics to study the incidence of prison rape. It also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which drafted standards for eliminating prison rape, which were implemented across the United States a decade ago.
Right To Humane Conditions
Prior to trial, defendants have a right to be held in humane facilities and in humane conditions, as they have a right to not be treated as guilty and punished prior to trial.
After trial and a guilty verdict, prisoners have an Eighth Amendment right to be free from “cruel and unusual” punishment. Courts have interpreted this to mean conditions that are inhumane or are counter to a person’s dignity.
First Amendment Rights
Prisoners have limited First Amendment rights while incarcerated. They retain the rights that are not inconsistent with their incarceration and would run counter to legitimate penal objectives such as discipline, order, and security.
Due Process Rights
Prisoners have certain rights under the Due Process Clause that protect them from intentional, unauthorized confiscation of personal property by prison officials. However, the Due Process Clause has not been interpreted to protect inmates from searches of their cells for contraband like drugs or weapons.