Prison Inmate Rights: 5 Laws People Can Avail While Imprisoned

When people are incarcerated, it is understood that legal authorities will curtail some of their rights. However, that doesn’t mean that these people will lose their fundamental human rights too. Prisons may be correctional facilities, but they are also places where people need a chance to learn from their mistakes. A healthy environment can help prisoners ponder over the consequences of their actions. However, prisoners cannot improve if they don’t even have their fundamental human rights. While a part of being incarcerated is about punishment, each punishment needs to be humane. Sadly, most prisoners or their families don’t have accurate knowledge regarding the rights of the incarcerated. Apart from freedom from ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ prisoners have various rights to protect their mental and physical wellbeing. If you’re interested in learning about the multiple protections granted to prisoners, keep reading below.

Bail rights

One of the primary rights granted to all incarcerated individuals is the right to bail. Bail is the prisoner’s conditional release from jail, given that they will appear in court when summoned. Generally, the bail is set through bail bonds, a deposit of money or property to the court to release the detainee. Suppose the bailee doesn’t return to court after being summoned. In that case, the bail amount is forfeited, and the court can pursue further charges on the individual.

While the bail amount is generally up to the judge’s discretion, some laws govern the extent to how high the amount can go. These laws state that the bail amount cannot exceed the amount that people with limited means can afford. It makes it easy to get your loved ones out on bail and prepare an adequate defense. However, if you still don’t have the amount on hand, you don’t need to worry. You can still get bail bonds and secure a fast release without much hassle. You can work with a bail bondsman and obtain a surety bail to get your loved ones out. A surety bail allows a bondsman to front the money for you and vouches that the defendant will show up to the court date. So, you don’t need to sell off your valuables and waste precious time trying to arrange the bail money.

Protection from assault

As discussed earlier, prisons may be institutions designed to punish individuals, but they are also correctional facilities. This second designation means that prisoners need to have a healthy, safe environment where they can contemplate their actions and become functional members of society. However, they can’t do this if they feel constantly threatened and unsafe. Sadly, many prison environments can be incredibly detrimental to the prisoner’s healing process. Many prisoners face varied forms of physical, sexual, and mental assault in prisons, all of which are outlawed. The Eighth Amendment prevents officers from using excessive force against inmates.

However, sexual violence is prevalent inside prisons, especially with younger inmates or first-time offenders. Suppose you or someone you know has ever been a victim of any form of assault inside prison. In that case, you can prosecute the offenders quickly. Eighth amendment laws protect prisoners from assault and torture from other prisoners and officers alike.

First amendment rights

When incarcerated, people lose access to many of their rights, such as their right to privacy, property deprivation, or employment laws. However, their First amendment laws are guaranteed. No one can prevent prisoners from exercising their rights to practice religion or free speech. Suppose you are a practicing member of any faith. In that case, prison officials cannot stop you from religious practice except in exceptional circumstances. Any rules or regulations that interfere with your ability to practice your faith freely aren’t applicable. Furthermore, prison officials need to accommodate any religious needs, such as halal or kosher meat or access to religious attire. The law also prohibits prison officials from imposing any other religious views on you.

When it comes to free speech, prison officials can go through your communications to ensure your and the facility’s safety.

Access to healthcare

While in prison, prisoners are entitled to having access to healthcare if they face any physical or mental issues. Prison inmates are often some of the most vulnerable groups to contracting a variety of diseases. However, it is worth noting that this right to healthcare access doesn’t include the right to pick a health procedure of your choice. Healthcare access for prisoners is limited to only the most necessary procedures. But, the landmark verdict in Estelle v. Gamble led to prisoners getting these rights. In this verdict, an inmate, J.W Gamble, injured his back during prison labor and failed to receive timely medical attention.

Apart from access to medical care, the prison population can also access mental health facilities. Being in a prison environment can often be incredibly detrimental to mental health, even in a good facility. Juveniles in particular need access to routine checks to keep them mentally healthy and to identify if they are facing any threats in the environment.

Disability rights

Disabled individuals are afforded the same rights in prison as they would be in everyday life. The law makes provisions to give them all the accommodations they need to lead a comfortable life. Prison inmates with disabilities need to have all the facilities to help them maintain health. Furthermore, they need access to all necessary medical tools like wheelchairs, walkers, or canes.

Additionally, disabled individuals need access to appropriate cells in the facility. Prison officials can’t place them in solitary confinement or segregation. They also need assistance to go about their daily lives, such as accessing bathroom facilities or help with eating.


Alexander Paterson famously stated, ‘you are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, and this statement may outline why it’s vital to provide prisoners with these fundamental rights. Infringing upon any of these rights can lead to legal proceedings against the offending party, regardless of their status. By giving prisoners these basic rights, we can make our prisons rehabilitative spaces that help all parties.