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Constitutional Rights of Prisoners

Correctional institutions, such as jails and prisons, deprive incarcerated persons of their freedom and some of their rights as a legal penalty. However, it is necessary to understand that the basic constitutional rights of these people remain. For example, an individual’s security is a fundamental right, and fair and regular treatment of prisoners is mandatory (Rights of Prisoners, n.d.). Otherwise, incarcerate persons are able to petition the government for a redress of grievances, such as damages done by prison administrators. In addition, prisoners have the right to medical treatment and visits regulated by the correctional facility. Finally, another important example is the right to be free of racial segregation in prison (Rights of Prisoners, n.d.). It is possible to conclude that a function of a correctional institution is to maintain a balance between prisoners’ personal rights and the legal consequences of their crimes.

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An example of the U.S. Supreme Court issue related to prisoners’ fundamental rights is the Bounds v. Smith case. According to Chemerinsky (2019), access to courts is considered an essential right for incarcerated persons. In the mentioned legal case, the court held that correctional institutions are obliged to provide law library materials and other sources to inmates. This example demonstrates how the right of prisoners to receive assistance in preparing legal papers is balanced with their withdrawal of other rights.

At the same time, cultural and diversity-related issues are common in prisons and jails. An example of a cultural sensitivity issue is the protection of a prisoner’s right to practice their religion. According to Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, restrictive measures of correctional institutions should not affect prisoners’ right to exercise their spiritual practices. From the point of diversity, it is possible to mention the issue of racial discrimination in prisons. Several studies have identified that white and black inmates are not treated equally, the latter being at a higher risk of violence from the correctional staff. This example proves the violation of prisoners’ right to equality and fair treatment. Therefore, even though the constitutional rights of prisoners are protected formally, there are many cases of violence, discrimination, and other violations in practice. It is possible to conclude that correctional institutions should be under more careful control in terms of their administrative functions and prisoners’ fundamental rights.


Chemerinsky, E. (2019). Constitutional law: Principles and policies. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Rights of Prisoners (n.d.). Web.

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