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Going to prison means partially relinquishing your civil rights, but the United States constitution is supposed to ensure prisoner civil rights. These laws are in place to protect the rights of even the most hardened criminals and inmates who can be maltreated, punished, or abused by the system. 


The United States has the highest incarceration in the world, with a black person six times more likely to be incarcerated than a white man. It is also the only democracy in the world that has no definite body established to monitor prison conditions or the rights of the prisoner. Whether it is to be treated fairly or protect their health and safety, prisoners have rights, and it is time you knew them.

One right, every prisoner should acclimatize themselves is the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. The law states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted”.

It is very apparent what the law guards against, including imposing harsh or undue punishment on prisoners regardless of race, background, or offense committed. The clause of interest here is “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”. While it is impossible to measure precisely the level of cruelty in punishment, it is even more difficult determining what or why punishment is unusual. This is another cloak that shrouds this statement in mystery.


History of Prisoner’s Civil Rights

Although the Eighth Amendment protects the right of prisoners, it was added to the constitution because of the culture of punishment and discrimination happening in the prison system. Race, class, and the politicizing of the criminal justice system have led to tremendous financial and human loss. The use of force and maltreatment on prisoners is the reason for the Eighth Amendment.


However, there is a unique story to this amendment, the phrase was adopted told of a man named Oates Titus, and the punishment melted for the crime he committed. His sentence was to be held in a pillory and flogged for two consecutive days. This was viewed by many as cruel and unusual, excessive punishment, and not approved by the people.


The Eighth Amendment was the same as the 1689 English Bill of Rights. It was not added to the constitution until 1776 when George Mason included it in the Declaration of Rights for the Commonwealth of Virginia. This phrase was enacted and adopted in 1791 when the US constitution was reviewed.


Types of Prisoner Right Violations


Today the 8th Amendment protects the right of prisoners from been violated in the following areas:


The right to dispute their living conditions – this is the most common complaint from prisoners. Complaint includes living in dilapidated facilities with poor hygiene and sanitation, which is detrimental to the prisoners’ health. Some conditions also include crowded prisons, no access to good food and healthcare, or basic amenities to aid a decent living.


Other violations of prisoner’s rights are

  • Failure to provide safety to a prisoner making them prone to prison bully, harassment and abuse
  • Failure to allow a prisoner to practice their religion
  • Failure to provide nutritious foods to the prisoners
  • Failure to protect a prisoner from the maltreatment of a prison warden or guard
  • Preventing the prisoner from exercising, making or receiving phone calls
  • Maltreating a prisoner based on color or race
  • Failure to protect against sexual crimes and sexual harassment