Inmates Law and Legal Definition

Inmates are persons confined in prison, jails, and other correctional facilites that house those convicted of crimes. Even the most chronic or hardened inmates have basic rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Some of the rights of inmates include:

The right to be free, under the Eighth Amendment, from inhuman conditions because those conditions constitute "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The right to complain about prison conditions and voice their concerns about the treatment they receive. They also have a right of access to the courts to air these complaints.

Limited First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, which are not inconsistent with their status as inmates and which are in keeping with the legitimate objectives of the penal corrections system, such as preservation of order, discipline, and security. Prison officials are entitled to open mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not contain any contraband or weapons, but may not censor portions of correspondence that they find merely inflammatory or rude.

Inmates do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prison cells and are not protected from "shakedowns," or searches of their cells to look for weapons, drugs, or other contraband.

Inmates are entitled, under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, to be free from unauthorized and intentional deprivation of their personal property by prison officials.