ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Prisoners and the Constitution

Updated on August 31, 2011
Source

Prisoners, who are in custody of the state, do not have the same level of constitutional protection as law-abiding citizens. Even though constitutional rights are not completely lost when a person is incarcerated, the courts have emphasized that they may be limited. The three justifications for limiting prisoners’ rights are 1) to maintain institutional order, 2) to maintain the security of the prison, and 3) to aid in prisoner rehabilitation. However, inmates today are legally protected much more than in the past. Prior to the Civil Rights era in the 1960’s, most states acted in the belief that prisoners did not have any rights. But as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement, legal protections for inmates became a much greater concern. By the end of the 1970’s, nearly every state had made prison reforms as mandated by decisions made in federal courts. It is now considered that prison regulations that limit inmate rights are unconstitutional unless 1) they are the least restrictive method for dealing with an institutional problem, 2) there is a serious governmental concern regarding the security of the institution, and 3) there is a clear and present danger to prisoner rehabilitation. The Supreme Court established a standard that defined these conditions in Turner v. Safley (1987), when Justice O’Connor, writing for the majority, proposed the rational basis test. Relying on this test to signal justifications for limiting inmates’ rights, prison administrators must prove 1) there is a rational connection between the regulation and the legitimate concern, 2) inmates must have alternative ways to exercise the right, 3) there would be minimal impact on the prison population, and 4) there is no less restrictive alternative available. Even with these protections in place, prisoners’ protection of rights will continue to fall short of a law-abiding citizen’s due to the paramount necessity of maintaining security, order and rehabilitation efforts of penal institutions.

Prisoners do have a right to sue the state based on violations of their constitutional rights. Since the late 1960’s, lawsuits filed by prisoners steadily rose until the passage of two laws in Congress in 1996. The first, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), sought to restrict the number of section 1983 cases. Section 1983 cases are ones that are filed to improve prison conditions and can also seek monetary damages. The provisions set forth in the PLRA included, 1) the exhaustion of other remedies before a suit could be filed, 2) a filing fee of $150, 3) a limitation on attorney’s fees and 4) the screening for and dismissal of frivolous suits. The second act passed by Congress to limit prisoner lawsuits was Title I of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). The AEDPA sought to regulate the number of habeas corpus, or unlawful imprisonment, cases. The provisions of this act 1) placed one year limits on conviction challenges, 2) required federal authorization before filing a second action, and 3) limited federal review of state court decisions unless there was an unreasonable application of established federal law. Most prisoner lawsuits are section 1983 suits and reflect perceived violations to constitutional rights. The rights that are applicable to prisoners are the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Under the First Amendment, the areas of most concern to inmates are the access to reading materials, non-censorship of mail and freedom of religious practice. The Fourth Amendment rights of unreasonable searches and seizures are limited in a prison environment to ones not viewed as being necessary to maintain security and order. The Eighth Amendment protections are centered on a prisoner’s need for decent treatment and minimal health care provisions and the Fourteenth Amendment concern for prisoners is the protection of legal justice and fairness. These rights can be denied if it is proven that their restriction is necessary for the security and safety of the prison’s operational system and its inhabitants.


Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)