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Ethical Treatment of Prisoners

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Ethical Treatment of Prisoners

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  • Feb. 2011
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Ethical Treatment of Prisoners

When there are million’s of people incarcerated throughout the United States, the ethical treatment of prisoner’s rights must be analyzed. Throughout the years many modifications have been made to accommodate inmates and preserve their basic human rights. Have we as a society done enough regarding the ethical treatment of prisoners or have we made their lives in prison too easy that it is no longer a punishment for them? There are many people in the United States who have strong feelings of what is right and wrong and fall on both sides of this question. Utilitarianism is the belief that moral rules should be choices made by a society to promote the happiness of its members (Mosser, 2010). Through the utilitarian view the argument could be made that these prisoners are being treated to good and not good enough. Utilitarianism gives an understandable, theoretical foundation for moral decision making. Prior to coming to a decision upon a course of action, the utilitarian is asked to consider its effects on the entire population over an infinite period of time (Mosser, 2010). One problem with this method of decision-making is that many people might not agree with the premise that maximization of happiness should be the basis for morality. An example of this is an eye for an eye and earlier in the United States’ history this is how prisoners were treated. Now an eye for an eye is no longer accepted in our society. Our society’s ethical values have changed.

For hundreds of years, prisoners had no rights. That is until 1909 when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that although convicts have lost their freedom; they do have civil rights (Davenport, 2009). During this era, institutions were legally immune in state and federal courts from lawsuits, also called the hands-off doctrine, wardens ran their facilities as they felt necessary and were not held accountable for the conditions that existed in their facility (Davenport,...

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