"These elementary principles establish the government's obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration."
- Justice Thurgood Marshall, delivering the majority opinion in Estelle v. Gamble (1976)
Prisoners' rights is an aspect of the criminal justice system that gets its own issue category. It is given this designation for two reasons. First, the rights of prisoners is an issue that boils down to protecting the rights of a minority group in society. Although many prisoners have made unfortunate choices to get where they are, this does not mean that they can have their rights ignored by the rest of society. Just as the Constitution guarantees, they have a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and a right to due process. The fact that these issues are part of their daily lives gives us good reason to separate their rights out as a larger issue than just criminal justice reform.
CC Image Courtesy of katerha on Flickr
The second reason that prisoners' rights is an individual issue area for us is due to the large volume of correspondence that we receive from prisons. Given this situation, we need to address criminal justice reform and prisoners' rights slightly differently even though they are part of the same system.
It is our goal with prisoners' rights to make sure that prisoners are treated humanely and in line with standards that meet the guidelines set out by the Constitution, courts, and legislatures. We are also very concerned with the rights of prisoners once they leave prison. For instance, we have worked on the issue of felon disenfranchisement, which is when felons are wrongly prohibited from voting after they leave prison. For more information on Georgia's felon voting laws, visit our Get Your Vote Back page.