Behind Bars: What Are Your Rights?
Inmates are often treated like second-class citizens in America. If someone is convicted of a crime, then they need to pay the time. Sadly, that sentiment often results in serious rights violations, because inmates are actually guaranteed certain rights under the law. Everyone, inmate or no, should be aware of these rights, as you never know when you or a loved one will accidentally end up on the wrong side of the law.
The Right to Human Facilities
Inmates, no matter what crime they were convicted of, are human. That means that they have the right to be treated as humans and housed in a humane facility. In order for a facility to be considered humane, it must be completely free of vermin, such as cockroaches, rats, mites, and mice. It must also be free of fire hazards. That means all wiring must be up to code, and fire extinguishers must be readily available. There must also be protection from the elements. This include proper heating for the winter, and proper air conditioning for the summer. If a facility fails in following these requirements, then it is not considered a safe place to live.
The Right to be Free of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault, or a forced sexual act, is a crime. Everyone has the right to be free of sexual assault. Many inmates find themselves the victims of assault once they are behind bars. This is so common it has become a running joke in the media. Assault, however, is never a laughing matter. Inmates often find themselves the victims of prison guards and staff, and even other inmates. However, allowing assault to go uninvestigated or unpunished is a violation of the victim’s rights.
The Right to Appropriate Mental Health Care
Inmates who are struggling with mental health problems or illnesses are legally required to be given the care that their illness requires. However, under the law this care only has to be “adequate.” This means that if staff decide that the inmate only needs to see a counselor once for half an hour, then that will likely be all the treatment that the inmate gets, even if he is in a crisis and desperately needs better treatment.
The Right to the American with Disabilities Act
Disabled inmates are owed the same rights as disabled civilians. This means that if an inmate is in a wheelchair, his cell must be big enough to accommodate the extra equipment. There must also be ramps or elevators available in the facility for the inmate to use when necessary. If the inmate’s disability, whether that be partial paralysis, asthma, a mental disability, or something else, is not accommodated, then it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Truth Behind Bars
There are many other rights that inmates are supposed to have under the law. Sadly, many inmates face rights violations every day, due to the deeply held belief that people convicted of crimes do not deserve humane treatment. Prison staff are often demeaning, facility conditions are usually unsanitary, and few inmates are given the mental health care they truly need. That is why, if you are facing an arrest, you should work hard to avoid prison at all costs. Whether you have been arrested for bribery, robbery, violent crimes, or drug possession, you deserve to be treated like a human being. The best way to ensure that your rights remain intact is to avoid prison. For experienced, passionate legal assistance, call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 today. We fight for our clients.