Being incarcerated for any reason is difficult. Things are made even worse when you aren’t being treated properly. Many people don’t realize that inmates have very specific rights that apply when they are incarcerated.
The protections afforded to an inmate can vary based on the type of facility he or she is in. Federal prisoners tend to have more protections than state-level inmates, and state-level inmates have more protections than individuals in jail.
When you are being mistreated by a person who is a state or local official, such as a guard at a state prison or local jail, you can file a lawsuit under Section 1983. This is a section of federal law that basically notes that your rights are still your rights, even when you are incarcerated.
It is important to note that there are very specific rights that are included in Section 1983. Religious rights covered under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, disability rights of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other rights that have statutes or laws that have been enacted by Congress or protected by the U.S. Constitution.
One example of what you could use Section 1983 for would be if the jail allows Christians to worship in a group, but won’t allow Muslims or Hindus to have that same right. You could also use Section 1983 as the basis of a lawsuit because of mistreatment in the jail or prison or because of brutality at the hands of the guards.
There are some limitations to Section 1983 that you must be aware of. This includes the fact that you can’t use this section to file a lawsuit about the term of incarceration or similar factors. If you have a complaint about what is going on in prison or jail, make sure that you find out if this section can help you with your claim.
Source: Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook, “Section 1983 Lawsuits,” accessed June 14, 2017