Prisoners’ Rights While Incarcerated

Prisoners Rights

Those facing a criminal proceeding may wonder what will happen if convicted and sent to prison as part of their sentencing. Many understand that once they are found guilty and sentenced they no longer have the same liberty as before, but what happens while they’re incarcerated?

Basic human rights for inmates are still fundamental and protected by the U.S. Constitution. While not all prisons have the same exact rules, rights, or oversight, the state of Florida and federal law provide for a lot of the basics and have somewhat addressed religious observances for those who are imprisoned.

Cruel and Unusual Punishments

Under the Eight Amendment of the Constitution, prisoners have a right to not undergo inhuman treatment or punishments deemed cruel and unusual. The Supreme Court also included any action that would violate one’s most basic dignity as such, but these types of cases often receive an individual review on merit.

Sexual Crimes and Related Harassment

Whether in jail or free in the world, no one should ever have to endure sexual assault or related crimes. In the prison world, this includes sexual crimes and harassment by administration officials, guards, and other inmates. Courts have found government agencies liable for allowing these types of incidents to occur within institutions. Violations of this type can bring civil and criminal penalties against parties and agencies involved.

Right to Complain About Prison Conditions

Those locked up in a prison have a right to not only complain about the conditions where they reside but to take those complaints to the managing officials and courts. Throughout the years, situations have occurred where inmates have had this right denied or been bullied for speaking up. If you experience this while incarcerated, contact your attorney immediately.

Prisoners with Disabilities 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, inmates with qualifying disabilities have certain rights that entitle them to reasonable accommodation. The justice system has recognized that not providing the same level of access to prison facilities can cause a prisoner to suffer cruel and unusual living conditions. 

Healthcare While Incarcerated

Prisoners are to receive adequate medical care, including mental health assistance, within reason. This means that prisoners only receive the minimum needed care. Imagine a situation where a convicted individual goes to prison while sick with deadly cancer. This person may not receive care that would truly fight the illness or improve their quality of life; only treatments necessary to maintain a level of comfort are typically administered. 

Religious Freedoms in Prison

Recently, the state of Florida adjusted its accommodation of an inmate’s right to express their religious freedom. This occurred after the SCOTUS handed down several key decisions that supported the rights of inmates in this scope. While this is a hotly debated topic in the Sunshine State, Jewish and Muslim prisoners now have some of the following rights:

Reinstatement of Kosher and Halal Diet Options

In May of 2014, The Department of Justice (DOJ) took issue with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) elimination of kosher and halal meal options from prison menus in 2007. FDOC claimed that these types of food were cost-prohibitive and put an undue strain on the meal funding budget. The courts did not agree with this claim and sided with the DOJ complaint, declaring that the removal of these menu items was a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Growth of a Beard for Religious Reasons

Until recently it was illegal for a prisoner to grow a beard while incarcerated in Florida. This is not an uncommon regulation that correctional facilities use because prison officials believe that: 

  • Beards hide contraband more easily
  • Beards can disguise one’s identity which causes an issue if a prisoner should escape 

SCOTUS didn’t find this reasoning compelling enough to enforce a ban on religiously grown beards. The compelling interest of safety didn’t have enough supportive data or evidence to warrant violating the religious rights of the prisoners subjected to such a rule. 

Incarceration and Your First Amendment Rights

Every inmate keeps their First Amendment right to free speech and religion while away in prison, but this only extends to the point where those same rights might interfere with the operation of the correctional facility. Any practice of beliefs or communication that could upset the order and discipline of the institution is subject to limitation. This is why private letters, emails, and other forms of communication are under scrutiny while someone serves out their sentence.

Any Form Of Discrimination Is Illegal

Like sexual harassment and related crimes, discrimination against a protected class is against the rules. Any instances of racism, segregation based on race, or treating others of different ethnicities or beliefs with a preference or bias, is wrong. This also includes showing preference based on the age of a prisoner.

Experienced Orlando Inmate Rights Attorney 

Convictions involving prison time have major impacts on your basic freedoms and protections once incarcerated. If you have charges which could bring potential jail time, or you are already serving your sentence, don’t face this experience alone. Have an Orlando criminal defense attorney by your side who can advocate on your behalf when things go wrong and your rights get threatened.  

At The Umansky Law Firm, our experience as former state prosecutors helps us to build your defense based on our own career knowledge. This gives us a unique advantage compared to other criminal defense law firms. We have attorneys with Constitutional law experience and proven case practice that works. With more than 100 years of combined experience, it should come as no surprise that we received AVVO’s Client Choice rating for our services. 

Contact The Umansky Law Firm online or call us today (407) 228-3838 to get a better understanding of what your rights are if incarcerated in Florida prisons.