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State of Maine Bill of Rights for Incarcerated Individuals

A living document from Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

All incarcerated citizens and noncitizens have certain inalienable rights that shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, gender identification, race, color, religion, national origin, physical and/or mental handicap, sexual orientation or as a punitive measure in the form of retaliation against the incarcerated individual or loved ones.

1. Whereas, humane conditions are an absolute expectation of a civilized society, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– a safe and healthy environment that is free of physical, emotional, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse and harassment;  

2. Whereas, government has a fundamental responsibility to protect those in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

–  timely, free health and dental care that includes, but is not limited to, substance use disorder treatment, trauma-informed mental health care reproductive health care and preventative care in all areas, including vaccinations and regular exercise; 

– gender responsive health care, recognizing all gender identities; and accessible and responsive health care for individuals with disabilities;

3. Whereas, respect for human dignity extends to people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– personal hygiene and menstrual items, at no cost; and

– gender parity in all areas including but not limited to access to visits, medical care, technology, education, and programming;

4. Whereas, the last vestiges of slave labor and similar practices must end, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to: 

– be considered employees of the state and subject to the minimum wage requirements afforded employees, as well as safe working conditions; 

5. Whereas, constitutional rights do not end when people are convicted or  held in pre-trial status, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– full voting privileges as accorded by law, including the ability to register to vote and have contact with their elected representatives; 

6. Whereas, food sustains life and has heightened importance to many people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– a balanced diet that meets established requirements for nutrition and conforms to medical, religious and/or ethical needs;

7. Whereas, human contact is vital to personal well-being and family relations, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– in-person visits with family members and other loved ones that include physical contact, support for and opportunities for continued parental involvement and reunification after successful completion of any required programming; and

– freedom from solitary confinement, which can have profound and permanent detrimental impacts on mental and physical health;

8. Whereas, ties with relatives and friends benefit people in jails and prisons, as well as their families and communities, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– access to electronic communications to speak and interact with families and loved ones at east weekly;

9. Whereas, the safe and humane functioning of jails and prisons benefits from the ideas and insights of those being held, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– provide input on issues related to the facility including lockdowns, education and recreation services, and staff conduct;

10. Whereas, concerns and problems raised by people in jails and prisons must be taken seriously and properly evaluated, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– a simple, formal, credible and transparent grievance process that includes an independent  prisoner advocate for all facilities free from DOC oversight;

– unimpeded access to every facility’s Board of Visitors, their contact information and input into the required reports.

11. Whereas, virtually everyone being held will be returning to our communities and is deserving of assistance to make the transitions successful, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:

– meaningful reentry planning, regardless of classification, from day one of incarceration,  backed by financial support from the DOC that ensures community support, housing, employment opportunities and healthcare access, and which allows for choices in programming and input from the resident.