The Ethical Treatment of Prisoners
February 4, 2013
According to our textbook, “Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility’ ethics refers to the study of the moral value of human behavior and the rules and principles that are meant to govern the behavior” (Mosser, 2010). A theory that falls under this is Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the belief that moral rules should be choices made by a society to promote the happiness of its members (Mosser, 2010). With that in mind, it is safe to say that the treatment of prisoners would fall into this. How prisoners are treated should be viewed in every instance. Do prisoners deserve to be treated fairly with the prison system while they are incarcerated? Each century brought on different standards for how prisoners were and are treated, from the middle ages of beatings to the recent times with prisons and programs to help them.
In older societies, the Middle Ages, criminals and prisoners punishments were based on the crime committed and the severity of it. For something that we now consider small, such as theft, back then it was punishable by having your right hand cut off. Other crimes, such as vagrancy, was punishable by being placed in the stocks in the towns square normally and being beaten by the towns people. Women charged with adultery were often drowned. Men who raped, committed manslaughter, and/or committed robbery were often hung in cages and left for the public to see their slow death. Some times, they were even removed just before death, to be quartered, so the pain would kill them (Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages). These were common practices then and were known by the people. However, the people who committed these crimes knew the risk before doing so. That was not considered back then to be unfair treatment to prisoners. Some were wrongfully accused, but there was not an option to prove with evidence. They often went on peoples word and witness accounts. Mistreatment in the middle ages was considered to be unsuitable housing/jails, lack of money to provide for their prisoners, and lack of medical care and medicine. Often people died from illnesses before they could even make it to their trials.
Until a hundred years ago, the Middle Ages ways of punishment were the way it was. It was not until approximately 100 years ago that it became considered barbaric and a type of torture. In the societies of today, we are not authorized to kill murderers or rapist without a trial and conviction by a jury. Even then it can be many years before they are put to death if they are given the death penalty when they are convicted. This can be prolonged if they continue to file appeals. Back then, punishment was publicly displayed and they didn’t wait around to give death to murderers and rapist. According to the American Bar, correctional authorities or guards should use the following guidelines when it comes to the treatment of prisoners. “Correctional authorities should provide prisoners with and implement effective policies and procedures for: (a) humane and healthful living conditions;
(b) safety from harm, including protection from punitive or excessive force and protection from abuse by other prisoners and staff; (c) necessary health care;
(d) freedom from staff harassment and invidious discrimination; (e) freedom of religion and substantial freedom of expression; (f) conditions conducive to maintaining healthy relationships with their families; (g) opportunities to participate in constructive activity and rehabilitative programs; and (h) comprehensive re-entry planning;
(i) investigation and resolution of complaints and problems; (j) fair and rational decision-making; and
(k) internal and external oversight of correctional operations. (ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Treatment of Prisoners,” Third Edition © 2011, American Bar Association.) It also states how they should be governed while imprisoned. “A...
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