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According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 1,215,800 people held in state or federal prisons in the U.S. in 2020.
Free citizens in Virginia have the right to file personal injury lawsuits to receive compensation. But do inmates have the same rights? What legal recourse do you or someone you care about have for injuries sustained while incarcerated?
Just like people who aren't incarcerated, prisoners have the right to file a lawsuit against the prison or jail. However, people in jails or prisons face unique obstacles in the legal process that other citizens do not. For this reason, it's advisable to hire a prisoners' rights lawyer to protect your fundamental rights after an incident in the prison system.
What is a Prisoners' Rights Lawyer?
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) is a federal law that sets out requirements that prisoners must follow when challenging prison conditions.
The PLRA sought to allow correctional facilities the chance to solve prison issues before litigation. It also sought to reduce frivolous litigation and lighten the caseload for federal and state courts handling prisoner litigation.
Put simply, this act requires inmates to exhaust all remedies in the prison system before filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you file a lawsuit before giving the prison a chance to resolve your problem, the courts will likely dismiss your lawsuit.
A prisoners' rights attorney is a lawyer who provides legal counsel and representation to prisoners and educates the community about prisoners' rights and issues through research, writing, as well as coalition-building.
Some of these prisoner rights include:
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom from discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, or gender
- Freedom of expression
- Treatment for medical conditions
- Provisions for personal hygiene and adequate nutrition
- Comfortable living area with sufficient ventilation and light
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishments, like solitary confinement
- Access to legal counsel
Unfortunately, many prisoners' rights are violated in state and federal jails and prisons. Lawyers for prisoners' rights can help you demand compensation to cover any expenses and losses you've suffered in a Virginia prison.
Inadequate Medical Care or Mental Health Care
A ruling by the United States Supreme Court held that inmates have a right to receive medical care. Inmates should receive medical care for illnesses and acute injuries while in prison. They also have the right to be treated for long-term medical conditions, regardless of the amount of time they've stayed in prison.
If prison staff fail to render adequate medical care to an inmate in response to their medical needs, the inmate can file a lawsuit. A prisoners' rights lawyer can show the courts that the staff disregarded the prison policy to provide adequate medical care, worsening your medical condition.
Sexual Assault or Physical Abuse by Prison Inmates
Inmates in Virginia and all across the U.S. have a right to be free from sexual abuse or sex crimes while they are locked up in prison facilities. If you have been raped or molested while in prison, you should hire an experienced prison abuse lawyer to help you get justice for your injuries. Sexual assault crimes apply to both inmates and prison personnel.
Physical abuse in prisons, such as violence or the use of excessive force, may also warrant legal action. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence involves a claim of a known risk of harm to an inmate. For example, locking up an inmate in a dormitory where they are unwanted — for whatever reason — may result in physical assault.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment by Correctional Officers
In 2015, a convict named Michael Tyree suffered internal bleeding and significant spleen damage after being beaten by three prison officials. Michael was a mentally ill inmate who died after the officers beat him in a jail section reserved for special needs inmates.
Under the Eighth Amendment, every inmate in jail or prison has the right to be free from inhumane treatment. The law prohibits the infliction of anything considered "cruel and unusual." Unfortunately, the Eighth Amendment doesn't clearly define the phrase "cruel and unusual."
Generally speaking, any form of inhumane punishment, like torture or the violation of one's basic dignity, may be considered cruel and unusual within the court's discretion.
Infringement Upon Human Rights or Constitutional Rights
Inmates have basic human rights that must be protected. An inmate deserves food and water while in prison. Starving an inmate is unlawful. They also deserve to bathe while in prison.
An inmate also has the right to life. If they haven't been sentenced to death, they deserve to live in prison. Prisoners also have the right to worship and express themselves while locked up.
An experienced civil rights attorney can offer sound counsel if a prison in Virginia infringes upon your basic human or constitutional rights.
upon your basic human or constitutional rights.
Unsanitary Conditions for Inmates
Inmates have the right to live in an environment with conducive temperatures and sufficient light. Their living quarters should also be properly ventilated and clean. These requirements also apply to disabled prisoners.
A prisoners' rights attorney in Virginia can voice concerns about unsanitary conditions to prison officials and the courts.
How to Find a Prisoners' Rights Lawyer in Richmond
If you or your loved one is in prison, that doesn't mean they don't have constitutional rights. These rights will continue to apply as you wait for your trial or as you complete your sentence.
You have the right to sue your prison. However, there are several obstacles that inmates face when suing jails or prisons. For this reason, you should hire a prison abuse lawyer.
Commonwealth Law Group is here to help you if you or someone you care about is being treated cruelly or unjustly in prison.
Contact our Richmond prisoners’ rights lawyers today to find out your legal options. We are ready to answer any questions regarding prisoners' rights or abuse.
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.