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Washington, DC Prisoner Civil Rights Lawyers

The prison system in the United States is meant to rehabilitate prisoners, but prison systems often fail inmates by not providing them with the safety, healthcare, and dignity they have the right to.

Being imprisoned does mean that personal freedoms are limited, but all people have certain basic rights that cannot be taken away. Prisoners are protected by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Eighth Amendment protects against “cruel and unusual” punishment, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects prisoners from unequal treatment based on race, sex, and creed. In addition, the Model Sentencing and Corrections Act protects inmates from discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.

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Have You or Someone You Love Had Their Rights Violated While in Prison?

Washington, DC, has the highest rate of incarceration in the United States, and the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The Prison Policy Initiative has found that 1,153 out of 100,000 people are incarcerated in DC. If you or someone you love has been mistreated or had their rights violated while in prison, you should consult with a prisoner civil rights lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help fight for your rights. Prisoners deserve fair treatment, and we will passionately advocate for your rights whether you are in prison or out.

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If you are considering a prison lawsuit based on violations of your rights, the experienced attorneys at Regan Zambri Long will work to win your case. At Regan Zambri Long PLLC the main goal of representing a prisoner in a civil rights action is to protect their interests and maintain their dignity.

Our attorneys practice in Washington, DC, as well as Virginia and Maryland. Regan Zambri Long has a track record of excellence. The prisoner rights lawyers at Regan Zambri Long have secured a $1.88 million dollar settlement on behalf of two men who were wrongfully imprisoned for a murder they did not commit.

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What Basic Civil Rights Do Prisoners Have?

All people, imprisoned or not, have basic human rights that cannot be taken away. Some of those basic rights are:

  • The right to adequate medical care. All people have the right to proper medical care, including mental health care. This healthcare must be adequate to ensure a prisoner’s quality of life. This right to adequate medical care is only for basic healthcare though, and prisoners generally will only receive the minimum level of care necessary.
  • The right to have ADA accommodations. A disabled person has the right to adequate or reasonable conditions for their disability, similar to the right to adequate medical care. The United States Supreme Court held in 1998 that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “provides no basis for distinguishing these programs, services, and activities from those provided by public entities that are not prisons.” The ADA applies to all prisoners with disabilities and guarantees that accommodations are reasonable.
  • The right to adequate living conditions. Similar to medical care and ADA accommodations, prisoners have the right to adequate living conditions. This means that the conditions of the confinement center must be reasonably clean and safe, and prisoners must be provided with reasonable food, clothing, and shelter.
  • The right not to be sexually harassed. Crimes of a sexual nature are always illegal, regardless of whether the victim is incarcerated.
  • The right to be free from racial segregation. Unless it is necessary for security purposes, prisoners cannot be segregated based on race.
  • The right to not be intentionally deprived of personal property. A prisoner’s property may not be intentionally kept from them. Once the prisoner is released, they must be given back all of their personal belongings, even if they were not allowed to have them while imprisoned.
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What Other Civil Rights Do Prisoners Have?

Inmates have many rights and protections under the First Amendment. Some of these First Amendment rights are:

What Basic Civil Rights do Prisoners Not Have?

Though prisoners retain many basic human rights, they do lose the privilege of other rights. A couple of the rights that inmates do not have are:

What Are Some of the Types of Prisoner Litigation Lawsuits?

Prison litigation is a very broad area and there are many different types of prisoner civil rights lawsuits. Some of the most common are:

How Do I Pursue a Prison Litigation Lawsuit?

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1996 requires that prisoners “exhaust administrative remedies” before they can bring a lawsuit in court. This Act was based on the growing number of prisoner lawsuits and provided a way to ensure that prisoners had followed all prison grievance procedures for voicing their complaints before filing a lawsuit in the court system.

The United States Supreme Court explained in Jones v. Brock, a 2007 case, what this “exhaustion of administrative remedies” requirement in the PLRA meant. In the Jones case, Jones was injured while in police custody. He later could not perform tasks assigned to him in prison due to the injury. Jones’ attempts to work aggravated his injury and he unsuccessfully filed a grievance under the prison grievance process of his state. Jones then sued in federal District Court for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. The District Court dismissed his case because they said Jones did not show that he had exhausted his remedies. The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. Jones then appealed again to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and held that the “exhaustion of remedies” requirement is met when prisoners have complied with the prison grievance process. This means that the rules for exhaustion are not in the PLRA itself but each system’s grievance procedures. The method of the grievance procedures is different from prison system to prison system and from claim to claim, but as long as the prison’s requirements for grievances have been met, the prisoner is said to have “exhausted their administrative remedies” and can then file a lawsuit in the court system.

What is Section 1983?

Section 1983 is a way for state prisoners to sue for violations of their federal civil rights. There are requirements for a prison litigation suit under this statute:

  • First, Section 1983 only applies to federal rights violations. Federal rights are rights given by the United States Constitution and federal laws.
  • Second, Section 1983 uses the language “under color of any statute . . . of any State or Territory.” This means that the violation of rights must have been committed by a state or local official, which is anyone who is an employee of a state or local government.

Section 1983 is not necessary for some types of federal claims falling under other federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are suing for a federal claim under another federal law, 1983 is unnecessary. Furthermore, Section 1983 is generally used to sue for mistreatment only and cannot be used to challenge your trial, sentence, or conviction.

If you think you may have a claim under Section 1983, you should talk to an experienced prison litigation attorney. Prison litigation is complicated and requires deep knowledge and understanding of the law. Your best chance of success on a Section 1983 claim is with a prisoners rights lawyer.

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How Will the Court Review My Claim?

It is also important to know that courts will be deferential to prison staff when it comes to prison rights. This means that generally, as long as the conditions of confinement satisfy the minimum standards and appear to not violate the prisoners’ constitutional rights, courts prefer not to interfere.

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Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

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