Prisoners retain certain basic rights, which survive despite imprisonment. The rights of access to the courts and of respect for one's bodily integrity - that is, not to be assaulted - are such fundamental rights. Others may be recognized as the law develops. Prisoners lose only those civil rights that are taken away either expressly by an Act of Parliament or by necessary implication. For example, one right taken away by statute is that prisoners detained following conviction do not have a right to vote. Federal and state laws govern the establishment and administration of prisons as well as the rights of the inmates (Lund, Lynn J., Deland, Gary, Gallaher, Sharon, and Bowker, Gary.)
Although prisoners do not have full Constitutional rights they are protected by the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. This protection requires that prisoners be afforded a minimum standard of living. Prisoners retain some other Constitutional rights including due process in their right to administrative appeals and a right of access to the parole process. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment has been held to apply to prison inmates. Prisoners are therefore protected against unequal treatment on the basis of race, sex, and creed (Lund, Lynn J., Deland, Gary, Gallaher, Sharon, and Bowker, Gary.)
Inmates have the right to be free, under the Eighth Amendment, from inhuman conditions because those conditions constitute "cruel and unusual" punishment. The term "cruel and unusual" was not defined at the time the Amendment was passed, but it was noted by the Supreme Court in 1848 that such punishments would include "drawing and quartering, emboweling alive, beheading, public dissecting, and burning alive," among other things. Today, many of these punishments may seem antiquated, but the basic scope of the protection remains the same. Any punishment that can be considered inhumane treatment or that violates the b...