Prisoner rights in the United States

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All prisoners have the basic rights needed to survive and sustain a reasonable way of life. Most rights are taken away ostensibly so the prison system can maintain order, discipline, and security.[citation needed] Any of the following rights, given to prisoners, can be taken away for that purpose:

Prisoner may refer to one of the following:

The right to:[1]

  • not be punished cruelly or unusually
  • due processes
  • administrative appeals
  • access the parole process (denied to those incarcerated in the Federal System)
  • practice religion freely
  • equal protection (Fourteenth Amendment)
  • be notified of all charges against them
  • receive a written statement explaining evidence used in reaching a disposition
  • file a civil suit against another person
  • medical treatment (both long and short term)
  • treatment that is both adequate and appropriate
  • a hearing upon being relocated to the mental health facility.
  • personal property such as: cigarettes, stationery, a watch, cosmetics, and snack-food
  • visitation
  • privacy
  • food that would sustain an average person adequately.
  • bathe (for sanitation and health reasons).

Many rights are taken away from prisoners often temporarily.[citation needed] For example, prison personnel are required to read and inspect all in-going or out-going mail, in order to prevent prisoners from obtaining contraband. The only time a prisoner has a full right to privacy is in conversations with their attorney.

Prison Litigation Reform Act[edit]

In the United States, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, or PLRA, is a federal statute enacted in 1996 with the intent of limiting "frivolous lawsuits" by prisoners. Among its provisions, the PLRA requires prisoners to exhaust all possibly executive means of reform before filing for litigation, restricts the normal procedure of having the losing defendant pay legal fees (thus making fewer lawyers willing to represent a prisoner), allows for the courts to dismiss cases as "frivolous" or "malicious", and requires prisoners to pay their court fees up front if they have three previous instances of a case having been dismissed as "frivolous."[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff, L. I. I. (July 15, 2008). "Prisoners' rights". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  2. ^ Meeropol, R. & Head, I. (2010). Brief summary of the prison litigation reform act (PLRA). The Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook. Retrieved from Archived October 10, 2020, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]