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What legal rights do prisoners have in Illinois?

Those found guilty of breaking the law in Illinois are often sentenced to jail or prison. The amount of time they spend behind bars can be brief or for the rest of their life.

Even those without a chance of ever being on the outside again retain specific legal rights. Violations of these rights can be the basis for a civil rights lawsuits that can benefit the aggrieved inmate. Below are a few of the freedoms that prisoners retain while in custody.

Freedom from censorship

Inmates still enjoy the right to free expression, including criticizing the government. Corrections officers may not prevent the exercise of political beliefs or religion. That said, prison officials can limit certain types of speech in the name of security. Although prisoners deserve access to reading material, anything pornographic or dangerous is off-limits. This makes First Amendment cases tough to win.

Freedom from discrimination

According to the law, anyone in government custody deserves equal treatment. Guards cannot punish prisoners based on faith, race or ethnicity. Issues relating to gender orientation are of increasing interest to the public. Judges have come to opposing conclusions on the placement of transgender individuals.

Freedom from staff mistreatment

While prison employees may physically restrain inmates, their actions must be reasonable. Physical attacks, including sexual assault, remain unacceptable. Less obvious is verbal abuse, which also qualifies as a violation. Some courts say jailers must never have a consensual relationship with an inmate. The inherent power imbalance, they argue, makes it unethical. Others insist such romances do not constitute a crime, as there is no resulting pain.

Violations of prisoner civil liberties deserve serious attention. Victims should discuss potential litigation to receive compensation.

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