Prison Laws / Prisoners' Rights Laws are the laws that regulate the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of those held within the custody of the criminal justice system. According to the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in 1995, prisoners retain certain constitutional protections under the U.S. Constitution, despite the "constitutionally forbidden" loss of certain rights due to incarceration.

You have a guaranteed right to formal and informal visits. Access to telephone and mail without limitations. The right communicates with ANYONE (instead of just legal and correctional staff). The right to exercise while working in an adequate space. The right to keep the personal property.

Other courts have previously treated inmates' religious-freedom rights as a facet of their due process guarantee. This followed the classic 1963 case, "Turner v. Safley," the United States Supreme Court decision. Turner held that inmates are entitled to protected rights in the areas of religious practice and religious speech but that these rights are limited and reasonable.

Other prisoner rights

For decades, activists across the country had fought for additional protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

The Model Sentencing and Corrections Act aims to protect people against such discrimination by providing that a confined person has a protected interest in freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.

The Act provides a more limited but essential right to speech and religion.

Courts and Prisons

Courts are generally very reluctant to limit prison officials' discretion, while prison officials have complete autonomy in controlling alien prisoner classification as it relates to the conditions of confinement. In other words, prison officials' determinations concerning foreign prisoner classification are left entirely up to prison officials.

Prisoners have a lessened constitutional expectation of rights. While it is not guaranteed, courts have given broad deference to prison officials regarding prisoners' rights, as long as the conditions do not violate the prisoner's constitutional rights.

Standards of review for more human considerations

When an inmate's rights are questioned, and judicial review is required, one of two standards is followed: the "strict scrutiny" test or "rational basis" test. In the "strict scrutiny" test, a prison's actions or policies must satisfy three tests:
  • a compelling governmental interest must justify it;
  • narrowly tailored to achieve that goal or attraction; and,
  • be the least restrictive means for achieving that interest.

For cases that do not apply when an inmate's constitutional rights have been infringed upon, the rational relationship test (rather than the more challenging to meet strict scrutiny test) is used.