Timothy O. McCalep

Prisoners have rights during their incarceration

Many people assume that people who are incarcerated don't have any rights. This isn't the case. While it is true that they do have limited freedom, there are some specific rights that can't be infringed upon. The courts have stood behind some of the most basic rights that inmates can expect when they are behind bars.

Anyone who is in prison, as well as those who have a loved one who is incarcerated, should know what is included in a basic list of a prisoner's rights. If any of these are violated, the prisoner might opt to pursue legal action.


Prisons can't discriminate against the prisoners based on any protected status. These include race, gender, ethnicity, marital status, veteran status, religious preferences or disability. If guards or other prison officials do discriminate, that person can take action. This is also true if the person is harassed based on one of these protected statuses.

Cruel and unusual punishment

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution stipulates that cruel and unusual punishment are forbidden in this country. There aren't really any clear guidelines about what is included in this broad umbrella. One thing that can be garnered from this amendment is that prisoners can't be subjected to torture and must be provided with at least the basics necessary to sustain life. The conditions of the prison and the location where the prisoners are being held can't be considered inhumane.

Disability accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't have any language that differentiates between people who are incarcerated and those who aren't. This means that prisoners are afforded the same right to reasonable accommodations as others who are out in society. For example, the prison needs to ensure that an individual who is paralyzed isn't expected to climb to a top bunk or won't have to navigate stairs to get to the bed or a bathroom.

Difficulties enforcing prisoner rights

Prisoners are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to trying to enforce their rights. Prison officials might decide that prisoners can't make phone calls or have visitors. This makes it difficult for them to share their troubles so that they can get the help they need to correct the atrocious behavior to which they are being subjected. In these cases, the prisoners might opt to make the conditions known when they are released from prison.

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