In fact, while Great Britain is liberal in many areas, prison rights does not seem to be one of them. Prisoners commonly appeal conditions to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has a much more liberal stance on human and inmate rights than those of Great Britain. For example, "On its 2005 visit to UK prisons, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), was highly critical of the observed lack of time out of cells, the sharing of cells, the very small size of cells, and the lack of exercise and activity" (Eady, 2007, p. 272). Thus, prisons in Great Britain have not progressed nearly as much as many wish they had in the area of human rights. Another writer puts it more succinctly. She writes, "Although England has a clearly identifiable prisoners' rights lobby, the political impetus towards legislative reform remains conspicuously absent (Lazarus, 2006, p. 767). Thus, many European countries are far more advanced than Great Britain and the United States when it comes to prisoner rights.
German prisons have come a long way in only a short amount of time. Just a few decades ago, German prisoners enjoyed few prisoners' rights. Another writer notes, "At the time, prisoners were not seen as full bearers of basic rights, and no primary or secondary legislation determined their legal status" (Lazarus, 2006, p. 747). Legislation since then guarantees German prisoners basic rights, but terms and conditions are still harsher in Germany than in many other European states. However, Germany does have sound laws that regulate these rights, in contrast with England.
In South Africa, several groups have become increasingly concerned about the "erosion" of prisoners' rights in the country, and several groups have formed to address this issue. Legislation had been passed in 1998 in an attempt to oversee and define prisoners' rights in the country, but it was largely unimplemented. One issue is overcrowding, as an author notes, "On average, South African prisons are 68% over capacity, although there are individual prisons that are close to 300% over capacity" (Muntingh, 2004). This overcrowding clearly leads to prisoner rights issues, and has been the source of human rights concerns in the country. In 2004, the South African Constitutional Court gave all South African prisoners the right to vote in the country's elections, and in that, they are far ahead of the United States, where incarcerated inmates cannot vote, and in some states, even convicted felons who are out of jail cannot vote. Voting is one of the basic rights a democracy provides, and taking away voting rights is certainly an issue for prisoner rights groups in this country.
In conclusion, prisoners' rights are a very volatile issue around the world. Some countries offer few rights to their incarcerated, while others attempt to maintain a high standard of human rights even in their prisons. America seems to attempt to meet human rights organizations definitions of inmate rights, but cases indicate that in many cases, inmate rights are still regularly being violated in prisons across the country, and that adversely affects the American criminal justice system in many ways. It costs the taxpayers money in the courts and in successful lawsuits, but it also indicates that the country is not as concerned about some areas of human rights as many democracies tend to be. Prisons were created to help isolate criminals from society, but they were also created to help reeducate and rehabilitate prisoners so they could live meaningful, crime-free lives. Ignoring prisoners' rights is a negative influence on inmates and their rehabilitation, and more attention to prisoners' rights could lead ultimately to less need for recidivism and crime in this country.
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