30 May Can California Prisoners Expect to Have Rights While in Prison?
Many people in our society do not concern themselves with what prisoners may go through while spending time in jail. Only loved ones and family members are concerned with whether their incarcerated loved ones are being treated with at least a little human dignity.
Prison can be a dangerous place when considering that the population of any given prison consists of violent gang members who have committed many different violent crimes, including murder. There are others there convicted of murder or other violent crimes, so it can be a matter of time before a prisoner, or even a prison guard, gets shanked by another prisoner.
Additionally, there are prisoners with mental conditions, which can adversely affect others around them, including the possibility of out-of-hand violence. Keeping the prison population safe should be a priority goal to guard against possible inmate uprisings.
While California prisoners do not have quite the same rights as the rest of us who are free, living on the outside of prison, prisoners still have protection under the United States Bill of Rights and the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, that protects people from cruel and unusual punishment.
What Defines Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
This is open to interpretation on several levels, yet it could be viewed as anything that is beyond the normal modern-day living experience that excessively and negatively impacts the well-being and health of any person, prisoners included. This can range from forced repetitive hard labor without enough breaks and water distribution, to situations that resemble third-world jails, and enemy concentration camps like those experienced in World War II by captured Allied soldiers.
When Expected Daily Routines Are Negatively Changed
When prisoners enter jail to serve their sentence, they expect to have a place to sleep, some version of a bathroom, and at least one to two meals a day, if not three. They may also have time outdoors to get fresh air, exercise, and a little sunshine, if available that day. While no one going to jail, expects a powder puff experience, prisoners are entitled to certain decency for living their daily lives, which are harsh enough when confined for a year or decades.
Sleep Deprivation as a Type of Torture
A recent case of sleep deprivation was reported in a FindLaw blog, concerning California inmates in an Alameda County jail, who were subjected to less than four hours of sleep at night before they were woken up shortly before 3 a.m. This occurred every night at the same time, making it impossible for any of the prisoners to get enough rest, according to the blog.
The excuse given to the court, after the inmates had filed a complaint, was that the prison administration had ordered that those who had to take medication during the night, were to be woken up at 2:30 a.m. to receive their pills. Instead of quietly waking each prisoner who needed medications, prison-wide loudspeaker announcements were made, which woke everyone else up all at one time.
During those same sleeping hours, loud maintenance work activities were also taking place, creating an increasingly frustrating situation for the whole inmate population. Once inmates woke up to the loudspeaker announcements, they stayed awake because of the ongoing maintenance noise and because breakfast would be served at 4 a.m., which all inmates had to get up for anyway.
The California Court Intervenes
After hearing both sides of the case, the judge overseeing the case issued a preliminary injunction that allows one more hour of sleep during the week, with an additional two hours for weekends and court holidays. No loud maintenance activities are allowed, nor would there be early wake-ups for pill distribution, when such medication could easily be taken shortly before breakfast.
If you or a loved one has been unjustly treated, call us at once for a consultation. 619-234-2300