March 9, 2021
Did you know that 1 out of 99 American adults is currently incarcerated? The United States’ current prison population is approximately 2 million. And Florida currently has the 3rd largest number of prisoners in the US. Based on data from Project 180, a non-religious program advocating community re-entry for prisoners, Florida’s inmate population has increased by 0.06% since 2013.
Yes, these numbers might be heartbreaking. But what’s even more disheartening is that these inmates and their families often don’t have a voice in their political stand and the way they’re treated. If you or a loved one has been part of these statistics, do know that you have rights as an inmate. In this post, we’ll give you details about inmate rights to protect yourself or your loved ones.
Rights for Inmates
Regardless if prisoners are proven guilty or not, they’re supposed to be treated humanely and with respect, as per the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution. Although incarcerated people don’t have as many rights as a free civilian, inmates have rights, especially if they’re in the following situations:
Abused due to sexual preference (e.g., transgender) – Were you searched by a person of the same sex even if you don’t want to because you’re transgender? Is there a blanket ban imposed on therapies & surgeries for transgenders at the jail you’re in? If yes, do know that these actions are unconstitutional. And you may politely request the officers to stop subjecting you to these situations.
Religious discrimination – Even inside the jail, you have the right to continue practicing your religious beliefs. You may request access to clergy, availability of spiritual services, and religious diet. Wardens may also be required to allow you to practice religious grooming and have faith-based texts and clothing.
Experienced excessive force or abuse – Prison officials may use force only in good faith to ensure order inside the jail. Other than that, inmates have the right to be treated humanely. You may raise issues about any sadistic, malicious, and intentionally harmful treatments. Officers also need to deploy enough guards on the unit and lock all cell doors properly to prevent unreasonable risk of attack from other prisoners.
Pregnant in prison – Same with other free women, ladies behind bars may request for or refuse an abortion. They have the rights to be given apt prenatal, pregnancy, or postpartum care. There are also limits, or even prohibitions, on using shackles on pregnant prisoners or those in labor or who have recently given birth.
Need to receive or send essential correspondence and publications via the prison mail – Even behind bars, you have the right to stay informed about your loved ones and the community. You may receive books, magazines, letters, and newspapers via the prison mail. However, these materials might need to undergo censorship for prison security purposes.
Have a disability – As per the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prison officials are required to give prisoners with disabilities apt medical care, support, and assistive devices. Disabled inmates may also be placed in dedicated cells because of their perceived vulnerability.
Resources to Help Prisoners Cope with the Incarceration Process
Do you think your or your loved ones’ rights are violated? Or do you need more support in your rehabilitation and incarceration process? If yes, you may refer to these organizations for social, emotional, and legal support:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – Since the organization’s founding in 1920, ACLU has been the country’s leading advocate of civil liberties. It’s a nonpartisan, non-profit group of professionals and activists committed to defend and promote the constitutional rights of the people.
Florida Prison Fellowship – This organization has over 40 years of combined experience in helping inmates manage a turnaround in their life, from being a stigmatized convict into a socially responsible person.
Prison Mindfulness Institute – This organization believes that change starts from within. Upholding a just and humane society, especially in correctional institutes, is a collaborative work of inmates, as well as prison staff and volunteers. Through its evidence-based personal development programs and tools, the Prison Mindfulness Institute aims to help cultivate a prison community that’s conducive to holistic healing.
Florida Prison Watch – Florida Prison Watch commits to gather and document real-life stories of prisoners, including their pleas on human rights, abuses, and other concerns.
Being incarcerated doesn’t strip you or your loved ones from all your rights. Although inmates don’t have the same level of rights a free civilian has, they’re still human beings who need to be respected and treated humanely. If you or a loved one experienced abuse or maltreatment inside the jail, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel to air out your concerns. Those in Florida might like to contact Attorney Tom McGuire and his team at Panhandle Defense Firm to help you out.