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Do Prisoners Have Any Rights?


Going to jail or prison ultimately lessens a person’s individual rights while they’re there. These individuals don’t have a say when they get out of bed or get to go to bed for the day, they don’t get to decide when they want to eat meals, and they usually can’t decide when they want to shower. However, if someone is imprisoned they still have basic human rights that must be upheld.

If you or a loved one was imprisoned and your basic human rights were violated, contact the prison litigation attorneys at HDR Law right away. Our experienced team fights to ensure prisoner rights are upheld and we will work for you to bring justice to your case.

What are Basic Human Rights?

Whether imprisoned or not, each person has basic rights that should not be violated. Those include:

  • The right not to be sexually harassed or a victim of other sexual crimes: crimes of a sexual nature are illegal no matter the circumstances. No human, in any way, is legally allowed to take advantage of another individual in a sexual nature. That’s why even if someone is imprisoned they should not be subjected to a sexual crime no matter if it’s by another inmate or personnel in the jail or prison.
  • Adequate medical care: whether physical or mental, all people should be given the right to have proper medical care, even if they are incarcerated. These accommodations need to at least be reasonable or adequate (meaning the basic necessities to ensure the quality of life). That means if someone has a life-threatening condition, they may only receive the minimum treatment necessary to keep the imprisoned person comfortable rather than extending that person’s life. Another example is if the person imprisoned has an issue with a tooth — rather than get a root canal or filling to solve the problem it may be deemed adequate to pull the tooth out instead.
  • Rights to ADA Accommodations: similar to adequate medical care, a person with disabilities can assert their right to reasonable conditions to accommodate a disability.
  • Freedom from racial segregation: inmates are not allowed to be racially segregated unless it is considered necessary for prisoner safety.
  • Freedom from intentional deprivation of personal property: this means that an inmate’s personal property is not be withheld from them. However, it’s important to note that someone imprisoned might not have access to their personal property all the time (such as someone is not allowed to have a cell phone while imprisoned) but once that person is released from imprisonment they are to be given their personal property back.
  • Adequate living conditions: just like other rights, the term “adequate” can be subjective. However, anyone imprisoned should have the right to be in a facility that is safe from harm including disease. That’s why many prisoners across the country recently filed a lawsuit saying that imprisonment facilities were not providing adequate protection from COVID-19.

What Rights Do Prisoners Not Have?

While basic human rights should be upheld in jails and prisons that doesn’t mean prisoners can do whatever they want or be entitled to whatever they want. Some rights prisoners do not have include:

  • Right to privacy: prison cells usually have open bars as the door for a reason. Inmates are meant to be seen at all times not only for safety reasons but also because they have lost their right to privacy. This also means prisoners are subjected to warrantless searches of their body or their cell at any time.
  • Minimum wage: if a prisoner is part of a work-release program or another employment-like program they might be compensated, but they are not entitled to earn minimum wage or be subjected to other employment laws.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one’s rights were violated while imprisoned, don’t lose hope. At HDR Law our team of attorneys is able to help individuals nationwide ensure that they are given due process if their rights were not upheld. In your time of need, contact the lawyers at HDR Law at (404) 341-4434.