Everyone is entitled to their civil rights, including prisoners. Unfortunately, many forms of civil rights abuses do occur in prisons. Common prisoner rights violations include:
- Holding prisoners in outdated prisons that are unsanitary or unsafe
- The sexual harassment or assault of prisoners by prison guards
- Preventing a prisoner from complaining about prison conditions to outside parties, such as the courts
- Punishing a prisoner for complaining about the prison to outside parties
- Subjecting a prisoner to torture or other forms of cruel and unusual punishment
- Denying a prisoner medical attention, or providing inadequate medical attention or facilities
Denying a disabled prisoner the access guaranteed them under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Transparency and Accountability of Prison Guards
An increase in the transparency and accountability of prison guards would help increase the likelihood that prisoners would be granted their civil rights. However, the existence of prisons managed by for-profit corporations, makes this difficult to accomplish. Additionally, restrictions placed on prisoners’ rights, including their freedom to read and write material of their own choosing, or practice their religion, would only serve to exacerbate their condition. This would make it even more challenging for them to become rehabilitated and re-join society.
Furthermore, subjecting prisoners to solitary confinement for several consecutive hours without any human contact, and without any exposure to natural light, can cause mental illness. Moreover, placing such restrictions on prisoners can be expensive. If the focus of prisons was on prisoners’ safety and rehabilitation, prisoners would be less likely to endure civil rights violations, and be in a better condition than they were when they were first incarcerated.
Disabled Prisoners' Rights
Disabled prisoners’ rights are protected under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Rehabilitation Act is applicable to facilities managed by federal agencies and to state or local agencies that are funded by the federal government. The ADA supervises the facilities managed by state and local agencies, whether or not they receive monies from the federal government.
Disabled prisoners have filed lawsuits in order to obtain access to such things as facilities, programs, and services. For instance, prisoners have sued to gain the ability to use prison bathroom facilities as well as to be safeguarded from injury. Prisoners who are deaf or hearing-impaired have filed suit to have sign language interpreters present at disciplinary hearings; they have also sued to obtain classification decisions, counseling on HIV-AIDS, and programs concerning their education and vocation.
How Can a Lawyer Help with Prisoner Rights Violations?
If you are incarcerated and think your rights have been violated, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you lodge a complaint. A criminal defense attorney can also help you recover damages for injuries you suffer as a result of incarceration.