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What Are Prisoners’ Rights?

K Altman Law is an experienced team of lawyers for inmates’ rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

You or someone you care about my have questions about prisoners’ rights and prisoners’ defense matters.

Abuse of a prisoner or inmate may be a civil rights violation. The victim of prison and jail abuse may have legal grounds to file a civil rights lawsuit. The abused inmate or prisoner can recover money damages if the lawsuit is successful in court. In addition, the prisoner’s lawsuit may bring about policy changes to prevent other inmates and prisoners from future abuse.

In this post, we discuss the common types of inmate and prisoner abuse in jail, the legal rights of inmates and prisoners, legal recourse of abused inmates and prisoners, and how an experienced inmates’ rights lawyer can help.

What Are the Common Types of Abuse Faced by Inmates and Prisoners?

Unfortunately, inmates and prisoners commonly face abuse. An inmate may be abused by other inmates in their correctional facility, prison guards, or other staff within the prison facility.

Civil rights lawyers want to help victims of jail or prison neglect and abuse to file a civil rights claim. Regardless of the individual who caused the abuse, the jail or correctional facility can be held responsible by the court.

The most common types of neglect and physical abuse to prisoners are caused by corrections officers and other prison staff, including:

  • Beating prisoners

  • Kicking inmates

  • Destroying a prisoner’s property without cause

  • Ignoring the inmate’s need for medical attention

  • Humiliating or verbally abusing the inmate

  • Withholding food

  • Failing to acknowledge the prisoner’s dietary requirements

  • Excessive force, or excessive use of force

  • Too much use of prisoner restraints, e.g. handcuffs

  • Spiteful punishment of prisoners

  • Sexual abuse or sexual assault of the prisoner

  • Prisoner or inmate death

The correctional facility may be deemed abusive if the jail or prison is (1) overcrowded; has plumbing problems; or is too cold or hot; (2) unsanitary; has unhygienic conditions; or has rodent infestations; (3) neglectful of inmates’ need for medical care (medical neglect); imposes solitary confinement (extreme isolation) in excess; and (4) guilty of failure to release inmates and prisoners when they become eligible for release.

The correctional facility may be responsible for prisoner or inmate abuse if it fails to prevent inmates’ abuse of other prisoners. The jail or prison may be held liable if it does not prevent or take steps to stop acts of violent crime, beating, stabbing, execution, rape, gang fights, sexual assault, etc.

When abuse of a prisoner has no reason and serves no purpose, it may be a violation of the prisoner’s civil rights.

An inmate in the prison has legal rights under the U.S. Constitution. An experienced prison abuse lawyer can help.

What Legal Rights Does an Inmate or Prisoner Have?

A prisoner or inmate still has constitutional rights even when they are incarcerated. When in jail or prisoner, the individual retains civil rights, including:

  • Protection under the Eighth Amendment from cruel and unusual punishments

  • Protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to due process rights; and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Protection under the Fourth Amendment against an unreasonable search or seizure.

Prisoners retain their civil rights when incarcerated.

The prisoner or inmate is protected against cruel and unusual punishments by the U.S. Constitution. This means the prisoner is protected from abuse in prison. The Constitution therefore deters prison staff from outrageous and cruel conduct.

Prisoners’ rights are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The inmate or prisoner is protected against abusive prison or jail environments. The incarcerated individual may invoke these civil rights when the correctional facility is overcrowded, e.g. when it is inhabited by twice as many prisoners as it was intended to hold; when prison staff ignores inmates’ requests for health care for illness; when prison staff refuse to acknowledge the inmate’s dietary restrictions; inmates are kicked or punched without a disciplinary cause or reason; or a prison guard tries to sexually assault or rape an inmate.

Inmate abuse may result when prison officials seize or search them. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search or seizure. This federal law may protect the inmate if a search or seizure is abusive conduct (“calculated harassment” that is not related to the prison’s needs) and/or prison guards of the facility strip-search inmates “excessively” or as a group.

Do prisoners have a right to due process?

Prisoners and inmates also have the right to due process in the United States. A prisoner deprived of these rights is entitled to a hearing when matters of life, liberty, or property. Due process also protects prisoners from certain types of prison abuse, including (1) Taking (stripping) the inmate’s “good-time-work-time” credits or (2) extending the prisoner’s solitary confinement period(s) without providing them with a “meaningful hearing.”

Do prisoners have rights to nondiscrimination?

Prison guards and staff may not target an inmate (abuse the inmate) because of race, religion, sexual identity, national origin, or gender. When victimized, the prisoner has legal recourse. They may invoke their Constitutionally-protected legal rights.

What legal resources does the abused prisoner have?

As discussed above, abuse of an inmate is a violation of their constitutional rights. In this scenario, the prisoner can: (1) file a federal civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or (2) file a civil rights claim in their state court. Although they may also file a complaint directly with their correctional facility, many prisoners have logical concerns about receiving a fair response from prison administrators.

Federal and state civil rights claims may achieve remedies for a victimized prisoner, including (1) money damages, and (2) injunctive relief:

  • It may be easier to obtain injunctive relief in a prisoner civil rights lawsuit. For instance, a civil rights lawsuit pursuing injunctive relief can obtain a court order concerning the prison’s overcrowded or unsanitary environment that rise to abuse under the law. Abusive prison guards or officials may be terminated or the correctional facility may be ordered to transfer them to another location. The prison may be ordered to adjust its current policy about inmate-inmate abuse, or the facility may be ordered to take other necessary steps to prevent abuse from occurring in the future.

  • Financial damages (money damages, monetary damages) in prison are a greater challenge to recover. Compensatory damages are intended to pay for the abused victim’s civil rights violation (“presumed damages,” medical bills, and pain and suffering). The victimized inmate may recover financial damages under the law. To do so, they need an experienced lawyer to argue the “qualified immunity” defense. The qualified immunity defense is intended to protect officials in government from lawsuits during their period of employment.

How Does the Inmates Rights Lawyer Help Victims?

An inmates’ rights lawyer fights prison or jail abuse by collecting evidence of the prisoner’s abuse. At that time, the prisoners’ rights attorney advocates on the victim’s behalf.

Collecting evidence in an abusive corrections facility environment is not a simple task. The Department of Corrections controls what happens within the walls of the facility. Prison guards and administrators may raise many hurdles to cover or obfuscate evidence of abuse.

After the prisoners’ rights lawyer gathers sufficient evidence, it may be difficult to file the civil rights lawsuit. That is because filing a civil rights claim involves many steps and procedures. When the civil rights lawsuit demands financial damages, this compensation (when awarded) comes from government resources. For this reason, barriers and obstacles of various kinds are raised to make it difficult for the claimant to win the case.

Have you or someone you love been injured in a county jail or state prison? An experienced civil rights lawyer helps abused prisoners by handling these kinds of legal challenges. Contact the prisoners’ rights lawyers at K Altman Law to discuss your case now at 248-987-8929 or email SD@kaltmanlaw.com.

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