Victim of Police misconduct? Click here


Going to prison means losing a significant number of the freedoms that you may currently take for granted. Still, being a prisoner doesn’t mean having no rights whatsoever, as the law clearly defines prisoner’s rights.

A prisoner’s rights lawyer can help you fight back when another inmate, guard, or prison employee violates those liberties. Still, before taking action, you must know exactly what your rights entail while in prison. Understanding the most basic prisoner’s rights and their most common violations can help you identify when to call a civil rights lawyer.

What Are Prisoner’s Rights?

Everyone has basic civil rights, but should you be convicted and thus forced to serve time in prison, you are required to live your life by a different set of rules for the duration of your sentence. Prisoner’s rights are specified freedoms set down in law to ensure your safety as an inmate and that you receive fair treatment while incarcerated.

Though the total list of prisoner’s rights is fairly long, some of the basic rights of every prisoner include the following:

  • Protection from the use of excessive force
  • Protection from religious discrimination
  • Protection from discrimination based on disability
  • Protection from transgender discrimination or abuse
  • Right to medical care
  • Right to send and receive mail
  • Right to due process

Under these broad categories, prisoners have many specific liberties, though sometimes, these can depend on circumstances or a prison’s rules. For example, under freedom from religious discrimination, a prisoner might have the right to follow a specific diet, worship at specified times, or wear certain types of religious clothing.

Common Prisoner’s Rights Violations

Of course, wherever rights are in place, so too stands a risk of a violation of those rights. Sometimes, a rights violation can come from another prisoner, though prisoner’s rights violations occur far more frequently as a result of the policies of the prison itself or through the actions of a prison employee.

While any rights violation could take place in a prison, prisoner’s rights lawyers often see a large number of prisoners come forward with reports of the following small pool of violations, which take place time and again:

Denied Access to Healthcare

First, all prisoners have a right to basic medical care, which generally involves prompt treatment for any illness or injury requiring medical care. It also includes access to necessary medications, including mental health prescriptions, and assistance in substance use detoxification.

In addition, pregnant prisoners have a right to an abortion or to refuse one, along with the right to prenatal care. They also have the right to refuse sterilization procedures or other birth control methods.

Lack of Protection from Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Prisoners also have the right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment, which includes the use of excessive force by both prison guards and other inmates.

Correctional officers are, however, allowed to use force against prisoners if it’s deemed necessary to uphold the prison’s rules. Nevertheless, they’re not allowed to cause harm to a prisoner to intentionally punish or torment them. A prisoner’s rights are violated anytime a prison employee unnecessarily causes physical pain.

Corrections officers are not allowed to act maliciously; they are also obligated to help protect prisoners from being harmed by other inmates, including protecting against forms of both physical and sexual assault.

As part of these particular rights, prisoners must also be given humane living conditions, which must entail access to adequate food, housing, and medical care in facilities that are neither overcrowded nor understaffed.

Zero Due Process

Lastly, every prisoner has a right to due process, a legal term generally referring to the fact that — when a prisoner is incarcerated — the prison has a legal responsibility to follow its rules.

That can apply to protecting a prisoner’s rights more generally, like ensuring they’re safe from physical harm, though it can also refer to specific rules, like allowing a prisoner to hold a visit with their lawyer.

Anytime a prison employee breaks these ordinances without a valid reason, it might be a situation in which a prisoner’s right to due process has been violated. It’s important to note, however, that a loss of prisoner privileges isn’t necessarily a prisoner’s rights violation.

How a Civil Rights Attorney Can Help

When your rights are violated in prison, it can be hard to successfully win a prisoner’s rights claim and see justice served, as, many times, the same prison employees who should be protecting your rights are the ones violating them. It can also prove difficult to prove that your rights were violated, given that prison officials often try to protect their employees.

The only way to ensure that a prisoner’s rights violation will be taken seriously is to consult with a civil rights attorney who handles prisoner’s rights violations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Prisoner’s Rights

How Can I Know That What Happened to Me Was a Prisoner’s Rights Violation?

The best way to understand whether your rights were violated in prison is to attend a consultation with a prisoner’s rights lawyer.

How Do I Prove My Rights Were Violated in Prison?

Your prisoner’s rights lawyer will explain the type of evidence you need based on the type of prisoner’s rights violation that happened.

Will I Receive Money if a Prisoner’s Rights Lawyer Wins My Case?

A prisoner’s rights lawyer may be able to help you recover compensation if your rights are clearly shown to have been violated in prison.

How Can I Prepare for a Consultation With a Prisoner’s Rights Lawyer?

You can prepare for a consultation with a prisoner’s rights lawyer by writing down all the details of the violation as soon as it happens, including the date and time, how it took place, what was said and done, and the names of anyone who was present.

Talk to a Prisoner’s Rights Lawyer Today

The only way to protect the rights of prisoners is to fight back when they’re violated. If you’ve been the victim of a prisoner’s rights violation in Virginia, contact Commonwealth Law Group to speak with an experienced prisoner’s rights lawyer ready to fight for you today.

If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.