Corrections/ Prisoner rights
America is said to have one of the highest number of prisoners in its prisons than any other country in the world. Reports by criminal experts show that at least one out of every thirty two adults in America is in prison. In fact the percentages of people leaving prison in America is lower than the numbers of people coming in, (Vicini, 2006). With such a big number of prisoners who spend most of their life time within prison walls the issue of prisoner rights had to come up as a significant issue in the country.
Even then by the year 1960 courts were still not ready to accept the responsibility of setting standards that will guide how prisoners are treated. Their reason was that they lacked the capacity, expertise and authority to do so. In the late 1960’s conditions in prisons became intolerable making the courts to start reviewing claims earlier presented to them by prisoners and consequently regularly issuing intervention measures. Gradually it became important to draft standards that would ensure that prisoners are entitled some rights however minimal considering that some people may be behind bars without really having committed the crime they are being accused of. The rights would play a vital role of ensuring the prisoners have access to courts, freedom to religion and expression and that they are not subjected to unlawful inhumane punishment by prison administrators, (ALLI, 2009).
Generally among the positive impacts that the institutionalization of prisoner rights has had is that it has enabled inmates to rightfully have access to food, clothing and courts of law in case they want their cases reviewed. Additionally the inmates are now able to complain if they are dissatisfied with their living conditions and voice any other grievances that they might have. The rights also dictate that the inmates can have access to health care facilities for treatment whenever they are sick and enjoy provision of reading materials at any time.
Furthermore they protect the inmates from cases of rape and assaults. Critics however argue that inmates are having far more better services than the ones being provided to the ordinary citizens. They suggest that these rights reduce the capabilities of prisons becoming the rehabilitation centers that they are meant to be. Frequent prisons unrest is seen as one negative consequence of for example the freedom to expression that the prisoners enjoy. Therefore the rights have little effect on the behaviors of prisoners. A lot of people additionally argue that because these rights have not reduced the rates of recidivism should be an indicator that prisoners need to be punished as harshly as possible to emphasize the punishment aspect during their imprisonment periods.
The Eighth Amendment
The basic purpose and function of the Eighth Amendment was to stop the cruel, unusual or inhumane punishment of inmates and also prevent courts from assigning accused people excessive fines or bail amounts. It ensures that punitive costs for damages are fairly imposed The Amendment which was ratified in the late years of 1700 is part of the country’s constitution.
Critics have complained though that the Amendment has very little relevance because it uses a lot of abstract language that fails to give clear definitions of issues such as what can be considered as excessive punishment or what is excessive bail considering the fact that the defendants are meant to face punitive actions. Additionally it does not give the yardsticks that should be used by judges and neither does it clearly indicate the penalties to be abolished.
The Litigation Act
The purpose of the Act was to unclog the justice system that was faced with an increased number of prisoner litigation, (Williamson, 2009). In the event that violations happened to inmates this Act however limits their rights to file suits against their facilities. This is because the inmates must first ensure that the have exhausted all possible administrative remedies made available to them by their correctional facilities. The Act has thus led to a significant reduction of inmate litigation. The Acts’ relevance can not be denied because it has served to improve the characteristics of correctional facilities together with enhancing court processing standards.
In conclusion I agree with the notion of letting prisoner’s enjoy some rights while they are in the correctional facilities. This is because they are human and in fact the denial of liberty is enough punishment in itself. Furthermore letting prisoners to enjoy certain privileges may greatly determine if they eave the prison reformed or unreformed. Prisoners rights are therefore very important; prisoners are also ordinary citizens anyway the only difference is that their movement has been restricted.
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American Law and Legal Information, (ALLI), (2009). Legal rights of Prisoners. Law Library. Retrieved on 29th July, 2009 from http://law.jrank.org/pages/1769/PrisonersLegal-Rights.html
Vicini, J. (2006). US has the most prisoners in the world. Common dreams. Retrieved on 29th July, 2009 from http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/120901.htm
Williamson, C. (2009). The effect of the Prison Litigation Reform Act on Judicial intervention in U.S Correctional facilities. American Society of Criminology. Retrieved on July 29, 2009 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/2/6/3/1/p1263 4_index.html