Prisoner's Rights How They've Changed

Well known

  • cruel and unusual punishment freedom
  • sex crimes
  • disabled prisoner's rights
  • medical treatment

When Did This Begin?

1960 Prisoners Rights Movement

  • Cases:
  • Jones v. Cunningham
  • Cooper v. Pate

People were tired of having prisoners being treating as slaves to the US government.

"You will be a slave of the state." Virginia Court room to a prisoner in 1871.

Prisoners would forfeit their constitutional rights.

In 1960 human rights activist had gone to the supreme court to discuss the rights (or lack of) that prisoners had. They were specifically talking of a black Muslim inmate in Illinois who was denied the right to buy items that related to his religion. The prison was prosecuted and fined because of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Many of the prosecutors/defendants were extremely experienced because they had recently worked in the black civil rights movement with MLKJ. This had caused chaos in courtrooms with prosecutors and defendants and prisoner being thrown out of courtrooms.


Most every prison was being sued because of the movement that had been going on for a decade. This caused riots in prisons and even cities, including a four-day riot in New York in September 1971. 2,200 inmates seized control of the prison both in protest of better living conditions and in fury over the fatal shooting of a black radical activist inmate from another prison. 39 men were killed after National Guardsmen, prison guards, and police stormed the facility.

1980's and 1990's

Many current day prisoners' rights come into play as most of the cases had been resolved and making rights become a much needed resolution, so the supreme court started giving prisoners some of their constitutional rights back.

  • work for pay
  • proper food


More of the rights we know today are put into the rights we all would have if we were incarcerated. During this time the list of rights given to prisoners is completed and with the list complete prisons are no longer getting sued and prison farms start to shut down.


Most all of the prison farms are shut down and prisoners now have close to all of their constitutional rights.

Rights Prisoners Don't Have

Inmates generally lose their right to privacy in prison. They are not protected from warrant less searches of their person or cell. While inmates do retain their Due Process rights and are free from the intentional deprivation of their property by prison officials, this does not include any form of contraband. Similarly, even if part of a work release program or other employment-like initiative, inmates are not generally subject to employment laws like minimum wage requirements.

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