Ammon and Ryan Bundy have filed for an administrative hearing over what they claim are ‘deplorable and unconstitutional’ conditions. According to the document filed by their attorneys, the Bundys argue that their first amendment rights are being violated because they are not free to assemble nor practice their mormon religion by engaging in religious activities or wear religious garments. They further allege that they are “being denied access to materials and resources reasonably required to defend their respective cases.” Perhaps more surprisingly, the Bundys are also alleging a violation of the second amendment rights because guns are not allowed in jails for prisoners. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, they are considering suing the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to get possession of their weapons.
Rights of Prisoners
It is obvious that prisoners have fewer rights and freedoms while incarcerated. Some rights, however, are still guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The eighth amendment prohibits conditions for prisoners that would be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment, although that term was not clearly defined at the time of the Constitution’s signing. Generally, any type of treatment that would reasonably be considered inhumane and in violation of basic human dignity would violate constitutional law.
Prisoners are also supposed to enjoy certain first amendment protections, such as the freedom of religion. However, they do not have the same level of rights as free citizens. Rights such as ‘protesting’ or ‘assembling’ may be restricted under Rational Basis Review. This just means that there is a “valid, rational connection” between the prison regulation and the legitimate government interest put forward to justify it. Such regulations are not considered unconstitutional as long as the regulations apply to all inmates in a neutral fashion.
Lastly, all inmates at the state and federal level have the right to:
- Be free from sexual harassment and assault;
- Be free from racial segregation (unless deemed necessary for the safety of prisoners); and
- Receive adequate medical care.
Unfortunately many of these freedoms are violated regularly. Continue reading