Supreme Court Rulings and American Prisons

American prisons are a way to punish prisoners, the government, and the American people. The prison system in America was never a good one and is flawed in many ways. In my opinion, prisons go against the 8th Amendments with the use of solitary which is a cruel and unusual punishment with overcrowding and solitary confinement. They violate the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment, taking away rights prisonersare said to have in Supreme Court rulings.

They also continue to disrespect prisoners’ rights despite several other court rulings. Some of these issues got even more out of hand when the war on drugs was started by President Nixon. It created prison overcrowding and took away the prisoners ways to be rehabilitated. After the prisons became overcrowded the government signed a contract allowing for the use of private prisons, which is costing the government even more money. (Kenny) The 8th amendment bans the use of cruel and unusual punishment. Solitary confinement has been used for generation and is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years there have been numerous studies on the use of solitary confinement. Americans do know the effect it has on the human body, as stated by a prison psychiatrist “It’s a standard psychiatric concept,if you put people in isolation, they will go insane.

Most people in isolation will fall apart.” (The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in The United States). This is not just one opinion either as many professionals share the same opinions and research to back it up. Adam Ewing says “Alone for weeks and months and years on end, solitary prisoners experience the horror of their own mental degeneration. They become invisible to themselves.” Solitary is a way to make humans, a social creature feelseven more alone. Solitary alters the mind and creates lasting problem and some people will never come out the same. There is a hope for the future though. In 2018 a bill called the Solitary Confinement Reform Act was inducted to the Senate. This bill limits the use of solitary and states specific rules for what and when an action is punishable by

solitary. This should make solitary much less used and should take way one thing in prison that can create psychological problems.It is knownand understand that a huge part of a person’s rights will be taken away when incarcerated, but in my opinion not to the extent that they are. Apparently courts agree with my opinion. A study was done at Midwest State Prison and showed that 13 percent of all male inmates were forced into sex while 22 percent were persuaded into an unwanted sexual act.

This is one incident and source and there have been many other studies done at prisons that show very similar statistics. (Bell) It is not just the inmates performing these acts, many accounts show the prison guards perform these acts as well. (Bell) Sexual abuse is a huge problem, but no prison seems to be taking the problem serious or at least not enough that it has made a difference. This a serious issue that has been floating around for a long time. There have been Supreme Court rulings on rape in prison, maybe a law will come into play and this number will go down. This number could be even higher as rape is one of the least reported crimes.

Also the percentage of people HIV positive is much high in prison than in the public. In my opinion this should cause even more worry, as that makes a scary place even harder.Prisoners have the right to complain as one of their rights protected by the equal protection clause. (Hirschkop) Although they have this right it is often thrown to the side and prisoners do not have a say. If the prison does not like your complaint you could get solitary or some other punishment. These stipulations make it difficult for prisoners to exercise theirright. In an article by Philip J. Hirschkop and Michael A. Millemann they mentioned a man denied his rights, “he was transferred to solitary confinement for 43 days and was forbidden to write to any attorney or court to contest his incarceration or to file pleadings due in the United States Court of Appeals.” The person Hirschkop and Millemann where talking about was a sixteen-year-old

male, but the prison did not have a single care in the world about him or his rights. This is not the only case of a prisoner being abused and there will probably always be the case for some prisons. The prisons are not following the rules and laws that they are supposed to because no one is checking or caring if they are. The equal protection clause from the 14th Amendment is supposed to protect all people under the law. I believe these problems will get better over time but will never dissipate. People are disabled all over the world, for this reason the government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities is a civil rights law that protects everyone with a disability. The Supreme Court rules in Pennsylvania DOC v. Yeskey that this law also applies to prisons.

Therefor under the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment protects this right. If aprisoner is deemed mental ill at the time of committing the crime they may be marked as crazy and have to go to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison. But, there are people out there who just have a physical disability, and these people can still go to prison. In a Stillwater prison a man complained about the conditions that he and other disabled prisoners were living in, in return the guards placed him in solitary confinement. While in solitary he fell from his bed twice, once spraining his armand the other time having to get head x-rays. One time while in solitary the guards left his in his room for six days with no help.

This man ended up using the bathroom on himself several times. (Robbins) Yes, a guard might get annoyed having to help an inmate, but according to the Armstrong vs. Davis court ruling the prisons have to apply with the Americans withDisabilities Act.Another reason that has greatly contributed to these issues in prisons is overcrowding. In the Plata vs. Brown supreme court case it was ruled that overcrowding was a cruel and unusual punishment. In 1971 President Nixon passed the War on Drugs. This increased the number of

people being incarcerated by a substantial amount. From the years 1973 to 2006 the amount of people getting incarcerated has increased by over 700 percent. (Schoenfeld) In the 1980’s the Correctional Corporation of America offered the government a contract to have private prisons, the Reagan administration took the offer and then sprung the resurgence of privateprisons in American. Private prisons only make up 8 percent of the prison in America, although they only make up 8 percent of prisons the number of inmates they house is growing at a rate of 47 percent since 2000 compared to the government prison population which grows at a rate of 9 percent since 2000.

Even though privately ran prisons make up 8 percent of the total prisons they hold 20 percent of the total population. (Gottschling) Private prison are funded by the government through the taxpayers. Private prisons are also the creators of the tough on crime initiative and three strike law. Both of these laws make it easier for private prisons to give previous prisoners longer or even lifetime sentences. At first glance this may not seem likea bad plan, getting the bad people off the streets longer. In my opinion this is not the reason these laws were made. Private prisons are business, they need to make money, the government pay them for the bed they have filled except for in a few cases.

These laws are in place so they can fill as many of their beds as possible in order to make more money. In the few cases the private prisons do not make money for the bed they have filed, but instead for how many beds they have in the prison. About two thirds of private prisons have contracts in place that if state or federal prisons do not stay at least 90 percent full then the tax payers have to pay for the empty beds. (Cohen) This is further forcing law for longer prison sentences and less rehabilitation methods, but is in my opinion goes against the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment. How can American be the land of second chances if the system they have to go through is throwing every possible thing in their way. The private prisons do not justhurt the prisoners though, the

taxpayers fund this. These contracts with private prisons need to stop, they are helping nobody except the private prison owners.Prison rehabilitation has been around for a long time. The idea was to get the prisoners readyto go back to the real world and succeed this time around. Yet the prison rehabilitation programs have not been updated in years. In fact,the only programs that really remain are ones ran by the government The government does have a program any prisoner can sign up for but the waits to get into the program is years. Also private prisons make money for having prisoners, why would they want to make it so people do not come back, that would not be a business.

With there being no real solution or option for them to be rehabilitated and the number of jobs felons cannotget, it only leaves them with oneplace they can go back to, prison. I do not see this problem being solved anytime soon.In Farmer vs. Brennan the Supreme court ruled that if a prison “deliberate indifference” to an at risk inmate that they are violating the cruel and unusual punishment clause located in the 8th Amendment. This was to make sure that prison guards would protect the inmates. In Armstrong vs. Davis the Supreme court ruled that prison had to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act. Plata vs. Brown in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that prison overcrowding is a violation of the cruel and unusual clause in the 14th Amendment.

Every one of these Supreme court cases support my opinion on the prison system. Yet, the system remains unjust despite these rulings. I am not the only person with this opinion. Every person I have mentioned in the essay so far feel the same. Prisoners are prisoner yes but they have rights as well, and the guards and prisons need to do their part and follow the laws and rulings put in place.This topic was important to me for a few reasons. The first, is that I have a heart and believe that just because someone goes to jail or prison, it does not mean that person is always

bad. I know there are some in there that are and some that do not care to change, but some do want to. I believe they still needed to be treated with the rights they are given. Some people have idols, they may not know it but some of the world’s most famous people have been to jail or prison. Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen, and Dwayne “Rock” Johnson to name a few. Of those three named only one was famous before prison or jail time. Iam saying this because just to prove that if you go to prison your bad, there are good people there too.

The world needsto see this and act accordingly.Butthese few cases do not mean anything. In my opinion the system also seems to think that if you have had a family member in before and your name ever comes up they will judge you harsher than someone with a clean history. I do not believe this is fair or equal, but it is just one more way to make the playing field of life more difficult. I am also speaking on this topic because I have had family in the system, I do know how it works and I personally have seen its flaws and know that there is room to improve.The future state of the prison system is a mixed bag. It remains bleak on the aspect that some people will never care and will continue to mistreat or disrespect laws and regulations.

As of now it looks like the Supreme court and other law makes are making more of the right decisions and law to help some of the problems with prisons. Only time will truly tell the answer to this question. One thing i do also believe is that it cannotget worse then it was in the past. The prison system is a flawed yet workable system that should get better with age. Although prisonersare not given rights and treated like they as supposed to be the law being passed leave me hopeful. Will it ever be perfect, not at all, but it does not have to be. The system just needs to serve its purpose while giving prisoners the right they have.