Understanding The Key Tenets Of Civil Rights Of Institutionalized Persons Act

People with disabilities tend to face a lot of discrimination. Considering the importance laid down on Civil Rights in the Constitution of United States and the increasing international awareness about Human Rights, the Congress has enacted various permissive and restrictive legislations. A key legislation is the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, aka CRIPA. It provides for maintenance of basic civil rights of people being held in state detention in areas like penitentiaries or juvenile care homes.

Scope of the Act
According to this law, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) along with respective state departments, has the right to conduct investigations with regard to those rights of the detained as laid down by the Constitution of United States. Apart from this, the DoJ is also authorized to investigate the condition of medical and mental health care, sanitary conditions, hazard protection like fire and ensuring proper access to courts of law. Another important provision is that of protection from abuse by the government personnel deployed at these holding centers.

It must be understood that there are certain exceptions to the investigating authority as laid down in the act. No investigations can be undertaken about the actual trial of the person, his conviction or parole. Furthermore, no investigations can be undertaken on individual cases. There must be a pattern of same or similar events to initiate the investigations. It must be understood that CRIPA authorizes appropriate record keeping of such complaints so that patterns can be identified before the matters get out of hand.

In addition to this, the law does not authorize the representation of individuals who seek damages or other re-medies in the cases of violation of civil rights of a particular inmate.

There are multiple limitations defined under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. To begin with, there is a limitation against any support towards appeal against the sentence or conviction of an inmate. Similar limitation is applied against instances of hearings for the grant of parole. Such an action would be tantamount to providing legal aid or a legal remedy.

It must be understood that the primary purpose of this legislation is to maintain appropriate living conditions in a holding area and not to act as a tool of legal remedy.

Another important limitation is that regardless of the living conditions in the holding area, the CRIPA does not provide for getting an inmate transferred to another jail or prison.

CRIPA has made multiple provisions to eliminate cases of discrimination against the physically challenged. It is considered as one of the laws which are highly beneficial for the handicapped. Many other countries have modeled their regulations governing the physically disabled on the basis of Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.