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Ethical treatment of prisoners

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Ethical Treatment of Prisoners Deborah Driscoll Soc. 120 Beverly Rudnick October 30, 2011 “ Imprisonment as punishment for crimes was first used during the sixteenth century in Europe. Prior to that, criminal correction usually consisted of enslavement or swift physical punishment such as whipping or execution. Prison was conceived as a more humane response to criminal behavior. ” (M. Wagner. ” Introduction. ” At Issue: How Should Prisons Treat Inmates? 004) The prison system has come a long way since the sixteenth century in regards to technology and living environments; yet the treatment of prisoners and how they are viewed by law abiding citizens seems to have stayed the same. People in society today have rules and guidelines to follow in order to maintain safety, structure, and self-discipline. If any of these rules are broken, there are consequences that follow. Some consequences are more severe than others based on the severity of the crime. An example would be driving while license suspended versus murder.

Someone convicted of a murder could face life in prison or even the death penalty. “ DWLS 1 is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $5000 fine and an additional one year suspension. ”(S. Lawrence, waduiatty. com) Even though these are two completely different charges and two completely different crimes, these criminals will more than likely spend some time together in the same facility or even in the same cell. But when law abiding citizens and correctional officers look at prisoners, it does not really matter what the crime was or how severe the punishment, a prisoner is still a “ nobody. Life in a county jail compared to a state prison is almost a “ slap on the wrist”. Prisoners sentenced to anything over one year, are usually sent to a state penitentiary to complete their commitments. Inmates with a history of violence and/or history of aggression towards officers while incarcerated are usually placed into a behavioral module. In this module, an inmate is only released from their cell twice a day and is allowed to walk around or watch TV. in an area not much bigger than an average school cafeteria. They are, of course, closely monitored by an officer at all times. Snohomish County Jail, 2011) With an extremely high risk inmate, a judge may place them in a solitary confinement facility, where an inmate will have no contact, or human touch, with anyone except for the correctional officers. An inmate residing in one of these facilities, is not there just for a week or two, like “ the hole” where the inmate is released from solitary confinement back into “ general population” at a county jail, but could spend 5 or more years on lock down. “ Solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture. (J. Metzner, J. Fellner, the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 2010) The human touch is a very powerful thing and many are unaware of just how important this is to all humans. “ In recent years, U. S. prison inmates have been beaten with fists and batons, stomped on, kicked, shot, stunned with electronic devices, doused with chemical sprays, choked, and slammed face first onto concrete floors by the officers whose job it is to guard them. ”(HRW, 2004) All of these crimes committed by employees of prisons usually go unnoticed and sometimes even encouraged by staff.

It is a real shame how people who have clean records and have never been known to act out in violent ways take part in abusing inmates. Just because a badge is involved or a title of “ officer” is in one’s favor, does not make abuse right. The prison system is designed to help people over come a long, and/or short history of addiction, bad behaviors, and criminal activities. Many of these inmates come from a family with the same criminal background and years of mental and physical abuse. All these factors can lead to severe depression and short lived life.

If an inmate receives the exact same treatment inside a prison as they did outside, chances are, they will act out or violate again. Majority of inmates reportedly being abused in our prisons are women. There are rapes, molestations, verbal, and physical abuse that happens more often than we think. Men are also victims of sexual abuse while incarcerated too except if they report their abusers, they are usually laughed at or paperwork will never be seen by any judge as promised. (HRW2004) Nearly every woman who has been incarcerated has been sexually assaulted during her time of imprisonment. C. Andrew, “ Understanding Prisons” 2009) These criminals within our judicial system are also looked upon as possible candidates for the United States Military. “ The Pentagon has said it wants to send more people to Iraq who have U. S. prison experience. ”(Human Rights Watch 2004). If this is the type of people wanted in the army, then why are sexual predators incarcerated not allowed to fight for their country as well? This is an issue that is not only inhumane but it is also a topic that might never be solved.

When many people hear the word “ inmate” or “ prisoner”, the first thing to come to mind is a criminal or even a monster. Most of the people incarcerated today are people who have driven a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license, people with outstanding child support owing, and people looking for a path to guide them into a stable future. They are people looking for help and most seem to be sincere about sobriety. Sometimes jail or prison is exactly what “ career criminals” see as a way out of the dangerous lifestyles they have become familiar with; others may see it as a safe haven.

Not all inmates are being held on violent charges and for one to assume a certain lifestyle of another, without asking the “ main source”, is wrong. After all, reasoning and ethics has to be backed up by facts, not just on one’s own interest and/or beliefs. The ethical theory that best describes how to resolve this issue would be deontology. “ Deontology doesn’t deny that acts have consequences; rather, it insists that those consequences should not play a role in our moral evaluation of such acts. ” (Mosser 2010) This is very simple and easy rule to abide by.

The saying “ Do unto others as you would have wanted done to yourself,” (Mosser 2010) is one that will never die and will always be able to go on for generations to come. There are many different angles to approach deontology, but it also depends on the scenario or the severity of the crime. A deontologist believes in, “ an eye for an eye”, meaning, if a human life is taken, the punishment is only fair to take the life of the murderer. ’(Mosser 2010). So when it comes to people incarcerated with nonviolent charges and/or less violent charges, does the same rule apply as in a murder case?

Unfortunately, many people still treat others that are incarcerated for a driving infraction the same as a dope dealer. Once a label is placed on someone, it is nearly impossible to have it removed. The prison system today is a very complex system, with a lot of “ accidents” that seem to go unclaimed. There may be a lot more prisoners who have been trying to call out for help or let their story be known to the public, and either we cannot see exactly what is directly in front of us, or people from inside the prison walls are intercepting messages.

But when these “ accidents” and “ behavior treatment” sessions are becoming more and more common, it appears that they may actually be creating a monster that may be released soon to the public. The different methods we use for punishment, one in particular being solitary confinement, may actually be causing more harm than good. Prisons are supposed to be rehabilitating inmates that can and are willing to get the much needed help, but when a prisoner is treated exactly the same way they were treated outside of the prison walls, it is no wonder why people keep reoffending.

If officers and all employees at Correctional Facilities actually treated inmates with the same respect as they do amongst each other, there may actually be a change in our prisons and how inmates and their behavioral problems turn out in the end. “ Egoism—specifically ethical egoism—argues that our moral evaluations should be made in terms of our desires and goals. Something that promotes what I want is regarded as right; something that interferes with what I want, or prevents me from reaching my goals, is regarded as wrong. ” (Mosser 010) Deontology is one I can relate to more than the other ethic rules. I like how deontology is not so quick to focus on the big and the obvious features of a person. They actually take a step back to examine any areas they may have missed, as well as, being able to see the whole picture. A deontologist is a perfect example of one giving another a second chance to prove a bad past wrong and show a good and promising future. References Michele Wagner. ” Introduction. ” At Issue: How Should Prisons Treat Inmates?. Ed. Michele Wagner.

San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. August 2004. 12 November 2011. ; http://www. enotes. com/should-prisons-article/39687;. Coyle, Andrew (Author). Understanding Prisons. Berkshire, , GBR: McGraw-Hill Education, (date). p 12. http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford/Doc? id= 10161289; ppg= 25 Kurt Mosser, Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility, 2010 Human Rights Watch http://www. hrw. org/about, March 2010 Snohomish County Jail http://web5. co. snohomish. wa. us/corrections/JailRegister/dailyJailRegisterSearch. aspx

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