• Chisom Amanoh

Federal Bureau of Prisons Lockdown



Federal Bureau of Prisons Lockdown

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has once again locked down its facilities. Reports indicated that the lockdown was to maintain its institutions' security and orderly running. Let's recall that it wasn't that long ago that the agency had been on a nationwide lockdown to combat and curtail the spread of COVID-19. Now, if this lockdown isn't about COVID-19, what's the point?


Due to the recent happening at the capitol (the protests and general unrest), the Bureau decided to move some of its Special Operations Response Teams from the prison facilities to Washington D.C. Teams were dispersed with the sole purpose of combating violence and upholding peace throughout the ongoing transition of power. However, their absence has left a considerable gap in prisons.


For this reason, The BOP took extra measures to ensure adequate security for everyone within the Prison walls. Hence the lockdown. The BOP declared that they are committed to providing the staff, inmates, and the general public's continued safety. But how does the lockdown affect the constitutional rights of the inmates? Does it infringe on those rights? We'll get to that. But first, let's take a look at what rights the inmates have.

What are the Constitutional Rights of The Residents?

Ordinarily, the law is that once a person is convicted and incarcerated, their civic rights are automatically stripped. However, this does not mean that they are complete without rights. There are certain Constitutional rights that the inmates are still very much entitled to and must accord to them. For instance:


  1. The ​Eighth Amendment's​ prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is not limited in its scope. The inmates have a right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishments.

  2. The ​Fourteenth Amendment​ provides the Equal Protection Clause. This law protects inmates from unequal treatment based on sex, creed, racial and gender-based discrimination. In many cases, the courts have ruled that programs, facilities, and privileges available to female inmates must be reasonably equivalent to those made available for male inmates.

  3. The inmates are also entitled to some of the ​First Amendment​ rights. These include the right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, and religious freedom. However, inmates may restrict the right to free speech if it's justifiable as vital for maintaining security or any substantial government interest.

  4. In the case of pre-trial detainees, the ​Sixth Amendment​ gives them the right to access the court and meet with their attorney or a representative of the attorney. However, the duration, timing, and conditions of these meetings may be subject to the Prisons' restrictions. In the case of pre-trial detainees, the ​Sixth Amendment​ gives them the right to access the court and meet with their attorney or a representative of the attorney. However, the duration, timing, and conditions of these meetings may be subject to the Prisons' restrictions.

  5. The ​Fifth​ and Fourteenth Amendments guarantees the right to due process to every citizen. This right does not exclude the prisoners from its coverage. During disciplinary proceedings, the inmates have the right to:

  • Be informed of the charges against them before the disciplinary hearings

  • Call witnesses at their hearings

  • Get assistance in presenting a defense (not the same as having a right to an attorney)

  • Receive a written statement elaborating on the evidence used in arriving at a resolution

  • Impartial decision-maker


Asides from these constitutional rights, there are other implied rights that every prisoner has. These rights may not be expressly stated, but they must be granted to the inmates. They include;


  • The right to medical and mental health care

  • The right to receive visits from listed visitors, although this may not extend in certain peculiar cases, such as when an inmate is in solitary confinement

  • The right to maintain contact with family and friends through phone calls, emails, and more


Will The Lockdown Affect The Constitutional Rights of The Residents?

Having considered the various rights that the law accords to every prisoner, it isn't far-fetched to see that the Federal Bureau of Prisons lockdown of the facilities can affect its residents' constitutional rights. For instance, do the inmates still have access to the courts and their attorneys during the lockdown? If some health emergency comes up, do they have access to proper and adequate medical care? Can they still have visitors?


Are the answers to these questions no? Can we say the lockdown does not pose a threat to some of the rights already listed above?


Conclusion

The lockdown of prison facilities by the Federal Bureau of Prisons can infringe on its residents' rights if care is not taken. The prison authorities must create a system that ensures that the inmates have access to all requirements. Officials must put proper plans in place such that the prisoners have access to the courts and their attorneys and adequate health care should the need arise. If this is done, then the lockdown cannot be said to infringe on their constitutional rights.


We must remember that although these people are convicts, they are still citizens of the United States and, therefore, yet have rights that must not be denied them. So, although the reason for putting these facilities on lockdown may be understandable, the Bureau must also consider the rights of its residents.


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