Prisoner rights are the legal protections and fundamental human rights afforded to individuals who have been incarcerated or detained by the government as a result of their involvement in the criminal justice system. These rights are designed to ensure that prisoners are treated fairly, with dignity, and in accordance with the principles of justice.
The key legislation governing Canadian federal prisons is the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This legislation purports to protect the human rights of prisoners by regulating confinement conditions, health care, correctional plans for rehabilitation, escorted temporary absences, grievances, searches and seizures, structured intervention units, conditional release, parole eligibility, statutory release, and so on.
Canadian prisoners also retain protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms including the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, the right to freedom from cruel and unusual treatment or punishment, and the rights to substantive equality and freedom from discrimination.
Prisoners’ rights include:
- Protection from Cruel and Unusual Punishment: This includes protection from excessive force, torture, and inhumane conditions of confinement.
- Right to Due Process: Prisoners have the right to a fair and impartial disciplinary process, which includes notice of charges, the right to present a defense, and the right to appeal disciplinary decisions.
- Access to Medical Care: Prisoners have a right to adequate medical care, as withholding necessary medical treatment can constitute a violation of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
- Freedom of Religion: Prisoners generally have the right to practice their religion, subject to certain limitations imposed by legitimate security concerns.
- Protection from Discrimination: Prisoners are protected from discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, gender, or disability.
- Visitation Rights: Many legal systems allow prisoners to have regular contact with their family and friends, although this can be subject to security considerations.
- Access to Education and Rehabilitation Programs: Access to programming is crucial to rehabilitation and therefore one’s chances at parole. Programming also aims to help prisoners acquire new skills and prepare for reintegration into society.
- Protection of Personal Property: Prisoners generally have a right to the protection of their personal property while incarcerated.
- Privacy Rights: Prisoners have some limited expectation of privacy in their cells and personal belongings.
Various independent bodies, such as the Office of the Correctional Investigator and Canadian Senate continuously find that the Correctional Service of Canada frequently fails to meet its legal obligations under the CCRA. More disturbingly, organizations continue to describe CSC’s relationship with the Rule of Law as tenuous.
The Senate, for instance, has called upon the Canadian Government to immediately implement all Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian federal prisons. The Senate also called for studies and strategies to combat the overrepresentation of Black persons.
CSC frequently fails to provide adequate health care as required by the CCRA. Injuries are often needlessly neglected which in turn exacerbates the initial injury.
Prisoners retain the common law right to sue CSC for torts such as negligence and assault and battery, as well as the constitutional right to sue for a remedy for Charter violations.
If you are a prisoner or a loved one fears that a prisoner’s rights have been violated, contact Jeffrey Hartman at 416-613-0416 to discuss the situation. Jeffrey had built his reputation on advocating for his client’s rights against CSC and its lawyers to get the justice that prisoners are entitled to.