Criminal justice is a process or a system by which crime is mitigated, deterred and controlled. Criminal justice also helps to uphold laws, which protect accused persons and uphold their rights. The system represents and provides judicial legislative and executive sections of the government. This paper seeks to discuss the prisoners’ rights in a criminal justice system.
The criminal justice system entails three main sections namely; corrections, which include parole, probation, prisons and jails, adjudication, which includes the courts and the legislative, which helps to create and enact law (Cohen, 364). All these sections or agencies operate under one umbrella, which is the rule of law. It is governed and guided by principals to help maintain the rule of law in every town, city and society.
Prisoner’s rights were news in the past centuries. The correctional law during this time was a hand off doctrine that categorized prisoners as slaves. It was believed that the prisoners had absolutely no rights. According to the judges, the prisoners had lost their rights when they committed the crime and, thus, did not deserve any rights. For this reason, the courts did not interfere or intervene with the correctional institutions’ administrations. The authority in these institutions lays sorely on the prison administrator. As time went by, the hands off doctrine was done away with and many legal developments were introduced in America and other countries in the world.
In the recent days, the court and law not only recognize that prisoners have rights but respect the rights of the prisoners. In the case Monroe vs. Pape in the year 1961, the ruling of the court allowed suits against government officials under section 1983 of the American law or Civil Rights Acts of 1871. In this particular case, it was ruled that any person who limits or deprives another person of his or her constitutional rights will be held liable. This law or Act also prohibits the states unusual and cruel punishment. This simply means that the law recognizes prisoner’s rights. These rights include: the right of speech, the right to freedom of association, the right to freedom of religion, rights of access to courts, rights during prisons disciplinary proceedings, rights to protection under the law, rights to privacy, rights in conflict, rights to be free from cruelty and unfair punishment, rights for probation and parole, and rights upon release (Frederick, 339).
The Right of Speech
The Civil Rights Act 1871 requires that all administrators should maintain and justify any limitation to the right of expression and speech. In the year 1974, in the case Procunier vs. Martinez the prisoners alleged that their rights to speech had been violated, because their mail was censored. In its ruling, the court stated that any restrictions on the prisoner’s mail must be justified. However, the court also clarified that the communications would only be limited to the point of protecting the government’s interests.
The Right of Freedom of Association
The Civil Rights Act 1871 allows prisoners the right to freedom of association. In the Jones vs. North California prisoner’s labor union case, the court upheld that the prison union would not be restricted to the right of association.
The Right to Freedom of Religion
The Law has upheld and maintained that the prisoners have a right to freedom of religion. This simply means that each prisoner can belong to any religion he or she wishes, with no restrictions.
The Rights to Access of the Courts
This is a very important right, because it allows the prisoners to access legal advice and law libraries. In this way, the prisoners can enforce their constitutional rights to get legal representation and lawyers.
Rights during Prisons Disciplinary Proceedings
All inmates have to go through prisons’ disciplinary proceedings. However, the main question has been how many proceedings the inmates should go through. In the case of Wolff vs. McDonald of the year 1974, the Supreme Court upheld that the prisoners had a constitutional right to be aware of the allegations against them before any hearing on disciplinary proceedings was heard. The inmates or prisoners also had a right to call their own witnesses and assistance during the disciplinary proceedings. The court also upheld that the prisoners had the right to write a statement on the events that lead to these allegations and a right to be heard by an impartial judge or administrator.
The Rights to Equal Positions under the Law
Every human being has a right to be protected by the law. This law is not restricted to prisoners. In this case, prisoners should have equal protection against gender biased discriminations, racial discriminations and working opportunities amongst many others. This simply means that all the prisoners should have equal rights regardless of their sex, race, and religion or crime committed (Wilson, 136).
Rights to Privacy
Every prisoner has a right to his or her privacy. In most prisons, there have been reports of correctional officers of the opposite sex, observing the inmates, while dressing or bathing. This is a violation of the prisoners’ rights. However, in the year 1984 in the case of Hudson vs. Palmer, the court denied the prisoners the right to privacy. In the ruling, the court upheld that the correctional officers had an obligation to monitor the prisoner’s movement because of the security purposes.
Right to Conflict
This Act upholds that prisoners should have a right to conflict. These conflicts arise in instances when employment of women is banned due to security reasons. For example 1977 in the case of Dothard vs. Rawlinson, this ban was found to be permissible. This was due to the fact that employment of the women prisoners would promote the possibility of sexual assaults against women. In this regard, women prisoners should have the right to choose the working place which is safe and secure.
Right to freedom from Cruelty and unfair Punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under the law. This simply means that correctional and administrators in the prisoners should not use excessive force towards the prisoners. The officers also have a duty to protect the prisoners against attacks from other fellow prisoners. The prisoners should not be placed in overcrowded cells. However, in the year 1979 in the case of Bell vs. Wolfish, the court ruled that it was not possible to have one cell for every prisoner. In the issue concerning excessive force, the court ruled that the officers must not use excessive force towards the inmates (Espito, 269).
Rights to Probation and Parole
Parolees have constitutional rights, which include the right to be notified of an upcoming parole hearing, the right to have an uncompromised judge or decision maker, the right to be allowed to cross-examine the witness and the right to attend the proceedings. For example, in the year 1973 in the case of Gagnon vs. Scarpelli, the court ruled in favor of the practitioners and, thus, they were allowed before their probations were revoked.
Rights upon Release
After prisoners are released from prison, they face many hardships and difficulties of being accepted back into the society. Many voters are prohibited from accessing jobs, voting or becoming members of a jury. These issues still need to be addressed according to the law, in order to allow the prisoners to have rights upon release.
Impact of Prisoner’s Lawsuits
Prisoners’ law suits are very important because they set precedence for other prisoners. The decisions made by the courts on these cases help to guide and direct other courts on similar cases. In this way, the courts have helped to correct, protect and improve worst conditions and situations in the prison cells. However, the disadvantage of these lawsuits is that the court can be overloaded by many different lawsuits.
It is important to note that upholding criminal rights does not mean that the criminal justice is intimidating. It simply means that prisoners have rights granted by the constitution such as trial rights, right to counsel, warrant requirements by the authorities before search and seizures, rights to remain silent and rights to a quick and fast trial. Denying these rights is simply a reflection of a broken justice system (Dris, 855 & 877). This means that the prisoners are entitled to public trial, trial by the jury, speedy trial, a chance to confront opposing witness, be notified of the accusation, obtain favorable witnesses and be assisted by a counselor. Many people have opposed the presence of the media in court proceedings. This occurs because the media cameras may disrupt the court proceeding s and in some instances deny the accused person’s fair trial.
Criminal justice system may not really be a system but an independent body which deals with different aspects of law. This system or the policy is guided by the administration of justice and the commission on law enforcements. It aims at preventing and controlling crimes as well as bringing offenders to justice. However, these offenders have rights, which should not only be respected but upheld as well.