The purpose of this study is to explore the issue of prisoner's rights. The topic of prisoner's rights has been subject to a lot of attention due to the recent controversies which are discussed in the study.
Prisoners are often treated unfairly in the United States of America despite the constitution specifically providing forbids that in the Eighth Amendment. There are a various means of unfair treatment which the prisoners are exposed to. The prisoners have been facing various problems and are exposed to poor living environment. They have been treated harshly by the prison guards and the conditions of the prisons are extremely poor. Prisons are overcrowded which adds to the poor living conditions that the prisoners have to cope up with. Many of the critics of the prisoners' rights demand that they should be given only the basic rights. However they should work in order to cover their own costs. In this manner they won't be a burden to the taxpayer while they are being punished. The prisoners should be paying the debt to the society as they had broken a law and hence have been in jail. It is the essential part of being punished that they have to give up some of their rights.
The issue of prisoner's rights heated up when Katrina struck the United States of America in 2005. The prisoners were treated pretty badly at that time and were subject to massive problems. Around 7,000 prisoners in New Orleans were housed in jails were left behind during the massive evacuation process. The dirty water became a serious issue post Katrina in prisons. There was a shortage of food supply and clean water. Many prisons had to face power outages for a long period of time. The situation got really bad as some prisoners were reported to drink the same dirty water in which they were standing. The advocates of granting prisoner with more rights indicate that this particular incident is representative of how prisoners are treated throughout the country. There is a complete ban of cruel and harsh treatment of the prisoners. However the opponent critics believe that the rights of prisoners should be restricted as they are penalized for harming the society.
The time spend by the prisoners in the jail should be utilized as a time to rehabilitate them and prepare them to reenter the society as a better human being who can contribute to the progress of the society. If we neglect them and abuse them then it would be hard for them to go through this rehabilitation process. It is essential that the treatment is not counterproductive that is if the prisoners are treated harshly then the probability of reverting back to a life which is related criminal activities after they have been released.
The main argument is that the prisoners should be provided the basic rights. At the moment the prisons are extremely overcrowded. The health and food facilities provided to the prisoners are awful. They are being punished not according to the constitution which is unfair and should be looked upon. United States as a matter of fact has the highest number of prisoner per capita ratio in the world. Therefore it is even harder to provide them the basic rights and look after them in a proper manner. The opponents of these critics are of the opinion that the prisoners should be treated in such a manner as they are being punished for a crime which is affecting the society in a negative manner so why should the society pay for their wrong doings by providing them better cells etc. The harsh treatment will mean that many criminals who have escaped from the police earlier will now fear the punishment and will not commit such crimes in the future. This claim is also supported by the evidence that since 1990 the crime rate has dipped dramatically. Therefore they claim that there is no reason to upgrade the current prison system of the United States of America.
On 4th September, 2003, President Bush signed on the Prison Rape Elimination Act. This was a major problem in the prisons that prisoners were being raped. This issue was ignored and not even reported by the officials. In early days there were solitary confinements but that changed due to the shortage of jails and the increase in the number of the prisoners. This meant that there were multiple prisoners in a single cell. That increased the number of clashes amongst the prisoners and also the number of rape incidents. In order to counter those strict actions were taken and guards and officials were instructed to take strict measures to stop that. Video cameras were installed in many cells.
The environment of the prisons in the 18th century was different from the environment today. There were many intellectuals who started to believe that prisons should be rehabilitated rather than punished. Earlier many of the prisoners were kept in jail for several years for minor offences and were treated in such a harsh manner that when they came out of the jail they were spoiled and started engaging themselves in serious criminal activities. Earlier the concept of a prison was this that by committing a crime the person has lost his fundamental rights. However if a person has committed a mistake, this does not mean that he should not be treated as a human. Now there is even more awareness that even the prisoners is humans and they should be treated as humans. They can be reformed into productive members who can contribute to the society. This has caused the evolution in the prison system in the 20th century.
The most criticism is regarding the living conditions as the prisoners are exposed to substandard living conditions. In some of the jails there are six prisoners living in a single cell. These cells are reported to have 4 beds only so two of the six sleeps on the dirty floor. The main reason is the overcrowding of the jails which cause the unsafe living conditions.
The overcrowding of the prisons has also created health problems. The overcrowding has encouraged an unhealthy environment which has caused the disease rates to increase. There are a number of contagious diseases which the prisoners are exposed to, including hepatitis C, tuberculosis etc. The sanitary conditions are terrible which cause even more diseases to spread. Another major issue is the sexually transmitted diseases. It was reported that on an average a prisoner is 10 times more likely to be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease than a non-prisoner. The poor health care system in the jails leads to even further problems because there is a lack of medicine supply and doctors to treat the ill prisoners. The health system is understaffed and is incapable of treating such a large number of patients.
Religious freedom is also a major issue which has been brought up by many in the recent past. This issue sparked up when a Buddhist prisoner tried to convert a few of other prisoners to Buddhism in Texas. There have been instances when Muslims and Jews are asked to cut their beards in the prisons which are forbidden in their religions. However it is clearly mentioned in the laws that the prisoners are free to follow any religion and any religious practices without interfering in any other prisoner's personal feelings and beliefs.
The guards are responsible for the abusive and negligent treatment of the prisoners. This trend has been observed through the jails of the country. The guards usually turn a blind eye on the violence and clashes between the prisoners. This is as much as an unfair treatment as the guards themselves abuse the prisoners. There have been cases when rapes have been ignored by the prison guards. A report suggests that almost 21% of the prisoners have gone through any kind of sexual contact during their imprisonment which means that one fifth prisoners are a subject to this hideous crime. Such prisoners go through a psychological trauma and face deep depression, loss of self-esteem and nightmares. Some of them also have committed suicide in the prisons. This leads to the increase in their violent behavior and their chances of returning to the world as a better human being are minimized.
There has been a lot discussion in the media and also in international forums that the capital punishment should be abolished completely. However this must be taken into regard that the death penalty is only given to those who are murderers and murderers should not be treated as we treat normal human beings. If there are no criminals then there would be no executions and hence no death penalties. Therefore the whole chain can only be broken if there are no crimes which is not pragmatic, however the crime rate can be minimized and this rate can only come down if the fear of the capital punishment exists. There should be some…