Posted on 9/4/17

Life in prison isoften unpleasant. Not only does a person lose his or her freedom, but he or she must also deal with prison life. Inmates must sleep in a room with other inmates; often there are multiple inmates sleeping in one big room. Guards are constantly scrutinizing the inmate population for possible rule breakers; fights break out constantly; the feeling of a lack of productivity gets people down.

Prisons often have gang problems wherein some inmates join gangs and those gangs are often divided along racial lines. Hispanic inmates may join gangs like MS-13; African-American inmates may join the Crips or the Bloods; white inmates, who often complain that they are targets of the other gangs, may join neo-nazi gangs like PEN1 (Public Enemy Number 1) or the Nazi low riders. This racial divide makes the an already tense prison environment much more hostile.

Against this backdrop, guards and other people working at prisons often feel compelled to intensely scrutinize the prison population. When rules are broken, punishment is often swift and collective. Breaking the rules can lead to a loss of privileges in the entire prison. Examples are loss of free time in the yard and an earlier curfew. Usually, an inmate can request a hearing before a warden committee to determine whether the inmate should be punished and the severity of the punishment.

Committing a Crime in Prison

In an intense prison environment, inmates may commit crimes like assault, rape, and murder. In fact, a New York Times article recently stated that a Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that 80,000 inmates are raped in prison per year. The Times also noted that only approximately 35% of inmates report rape, so the number is based on underreporting and is likely substantially higher.

In addition to violent crimes like rape and murder, inmates may be charged with crimes for holding contraband like cigarettes. When these things occur, an inmate can be charged with a crime just like someone who is not in prison and is charged with a crime. The inmate would face the same process as someone on the street.

When facing a judge at an arraignment or similar process, an inmate will be asked to enter a plea, like other defendants. While more serious crimes like rape and murder would likely have more scrutiny because the defendant is also an inmate, more “minor” infractions like simple assault or holding contraband may be dismissed. In such an instance, a judge may instruct the prison warden to deal with the disciplinary measure internally instead of becoming a full-blown case. It would depend on the judge and how he or she views the inmate.

Moreover, an inmate who is accused of drug possession inside a prison likely faces significantly harsher treatment than someone on the street. In general, law enforcement, in the war on drugs, focuses on those distributing drugs, not those possessing drugs. However, in a prison environment, drug possession would be considered quite serious.

Facing criminal charges? You need an advocate who will aggressively fight for you. Contact the criminal defense firm of Christopher Abel.

(image courtesy of Miguel A Ramirez)


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