THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF PRISONERS
Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility
Instructor: Brett Cross
February 11, 2013
The Ethical Treatment of Prisoners
A quadriplegic, who spent many months in the hospital, suffered from bedsores which had developed into open wounds because of lack of care and which eventually became infested with maggots. Days would pass without his bandages being changed, until the stench pervaded the entire ward. The records show that in one month before his death, he was bathed and his dressings were changed only once. Equally neglected was another patient….who could not eat. Although intravenous feeding was ordered, it was not administered and no other form of nourishment was received three days before his death. Another hospital patient, a geriatric who had suffered a stroke and was partially incontinent, was made to sit day after day on a wooden bench beside his bed so that it would be kept clean. He frequently fell from the bench, and his legs became blue and swollen. One leg was later amputated, and he died the following day (Perlin & Dlugacz, 2009).
The ethics of caring for the wellbeing of prisoners can be complicated. In the examples above, are just a few of many unethical issues that are faced in prison. A prison as an institution is the ultimate punishment, short of death. Prison is supposed to be a place where the prisoner is denied of what he wants most of all (Cleaver, year unknown). With that being said, prisons go beyond the social contract of what is moral and ethical. The Court concluded that “deliberate indifference to serious need of prisoners” constitutes a violation of the Eight Amendment. From this conclusion came two prongs of the Estelle test: * Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s
* Serious medical need (Kellogg, 2009).
Over the past three decades, the Supreme Court has made many different changes in prisons so, to get a better understanding we will start with defining the Eight Amendment. Being aware of a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment right will help avoid cruel and unusual punishment (Kellogg, 2009). Also, the meaning of what ethics of punishment is described by Rawls (1955). Then, looking at the past, it will show the history of how prisoners were treated and when changes started to come about. Next, we will look at the present, to see what is being provided for the prisoners and how the past brought us here. With looking at the prisons it will show if what the prison authorities are doing is ethical. What the laws are now will provide us with information that will be beneficial to know what changes still need to be made for the rights of the prisoners. Then, we will consider the future of the rights of the prisoners. How will these adjustments of the laws have on the prisoners’ rights and if this will affect the prison as a whole. The connection between prisons and society is not always apparent. Most people are strongly socialized to keep it “out of mind”. Relatively few people even care to know what goes on or examine why prisons are there in the first place (Kellogg, 2009). For this reason, society as a whole is also responsible for the ethical treatment of Prisoners. If we do nothing we are a part of the problem. We will see if there is anything that can be done to make improvements to the laws to give prisoners’ rights without letting them get out of their punishment. Some courts have protected prisoners’ rights to be free from “deliberate indifference” to serious medical needs, and to be free from excessive force on the part of prison official (Wiley & Sons, 2009). Now to begin, the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791, has three provisions. The Cruel and Unusual Punishments clause...
References: Behavioral Sciences &the Law (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2004)
Correctional Ethics retrieved from: http://www.drtomoconnor.com/3300/3300ect06.htm
Exploring a Prisoner’s Eighth Amendment Right to Health Care (Victoria A, Kellogg, PhD,
NatiEthical Considerations for Research Involving Prisoners Author: Committee on Ethical Considerations for Revisions to DHHS Regulations for Protection of Prisoners Involved in Research Staff (2006)
Publisher: National Academies Press
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