Can You Be Charged for Crimes Committed in Prison?

Can You Be Charged for Crimes Committed in Prison?

Yes. People in prison can be charged for crimes committed in federal prison just like they can outside prison. If this happens, you can go to trial on your charges just like you otherwise would. And if you go to trial, a judge or jury will reach a verdict. Then, if the judge or jury finds you guilty, a judge will impose a new sentence. Depending on the circumstances, the new sentence could be added to your previous one. But some unique rules can apply when it comes to crimes committed in prison.

Do prisons have different laws than the general public?

Yes and no. Not all the rules inside prisons are laws. Some are regulations or facility-specific rules. Prison officials can pursue charges for crimes committed in prison. But they can also punish you for violating regulations and rules. In most cases, you have a right to a hearing when officials accuse you of breaking a law, regulation or rule.

Prison staff members use many methods of punishment to try to keep their facilities safe. One of the most common punishments is losing “good time.” This means that an incarcerated person may not get an early release because of bad behavior. Staff also use administrative segregation to punish wrongdoing by incarcerated people.

crimes committed in prison
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If prison officials accuse you of wrongdoing, you still have the right to due process. That means that you are entitled to a hearing and, in some cases, access to an attorney. Not all punishments are formal, though. If officials decide to search your cell, for example, you may not have the same procedural rights. This is because searching your cell is not a formal punishment.

What happens if you commit crimes inside a prison?

Prison officials may open an investigation if they think that an person in prison committed a crime. These investigations may last a single day or take years to develop. This is because some crimes, like smuggling drugs, are more complex. Government officials may read your letters or listen to your phone calls to gather evidence. Remember that officials don’t need a warrant to search your cell or record your calls when you’re in prison.

The most common charges inside prisons are for assault and murder. These charges often happen after people in prison fight or attack one another. Prisons also build complex cases over time and charge many incarcerated people at once. This happens most often with drug- and gang-related activity.

For many less serious offenses, like drug possession, prisons may decide to put a mark on your file. This is not the same thing as charging you with a crime. Marks on your file impact parole and privileges, but they are not new charges.

Who decides if you are charged for crimes committed in prison?

In most cases, the warden decides if an offense leads to a new criminal charge. In general, all violent crimes result in new charges. Before they charge you, officials will investigate the crime. Sometimes incarcerated people may lie and say that someone else committed a crime. Prison staff take these allegations seriously, but they will not support charges against you without evidence.

Image courtesy of Kritchanut at iStock Photos via Getty Images.

If government officials charge you for crimes committed in prison, you have the same rights that you do outside prison. You have the right to a lawyer and a trial. You can also appeal a guilty verdict on new charges for the same reasons you can appeal guilty verdicts on old charges.

The Takeaway:

You can be charged for crimes committed in federal prison. COs may decide not to charge you for minor offenses. If they charge you with a new crime, you have a right to due process and legal counsel.

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