By Libertatem Hortus

Prisons are the place where we gather all of our criminals, as such, it makes sense that we’d see injuries and crimes take place inside them. Unfortunately, most of these crimes aren’t committed by the inmates serving their time, a considerable amount of time is inflicted by the guards and staff of the prisons. Since prisons have existed, civil rights have been violated inside them. Whether it be in the Revolutionary War when British soldiers would torture the inmates, or now in the modern era where guards abuse their power and become just as guilty as the inmates their guarding, often being worse.

There isn’t too much to understand about how we got to this point. Sociologists have found time and time again that when given power over others, people tend to abuse it. Sure you’ll have good people every now and then, but more often than not, corruption takes hold when unchecked. Here lies the issue in prisons, when something goes wrong, the staff is the ones who investigate it. When a staff member does something wrong, it’s the staff who initially investigates it as well. Outside of major violations like murdering inmates or other serious crimes, the staff is pretty much given free rein. This is especially prevalent in smaller prisons where there’s notably less staff to investigate the crimes or ensure everything is up to legal codes and clean.

Legislative wise, while there are obviously rights, its left fairly obscure. Take this quote from Cornell Law School, “Federal prison officials have full discretion to control prisoner classification as affecting conditions of confinement, granted by Congress. Generally, the Federal Bureau of Prisons controls federal classifications.” Previously in its statement, it states that prisoner rights are dependent on their classification. What this means is that a prisoner’s rights are determined by their officials, not by Congress.

While it’s true that there are some safeguards, such as the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment which offer some protection. That said, the Supreme court has ruled that you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in prison. As such guards don’t need a particular reason to search your room. This also applies to strip searches, though there are a few additional safeguards put in place, namely, you can only be searched by the same sex, you won’t be touched while stripped, and you won’t be in public view.

On top of the legislation allowing for quite a few gray areas in rights such as being non-descript on how often a search can be done, there’s also the fact that a lot of times these rights are flat out ignored. Violence and abuse also have a lot of cases where guards are either guilty of it or encourage inmates to do it to each other. Rights to visitation and assembly are fickle and at the whim of staff. For example, you can be placed in solitary confinement for little to no reason if a particular staff member hates you. There have even been a few documented cases where inmates were made to fight each other for gladiatorial type purposes and then shot afterward.

Outside of the blatant moral failing as a society in upholding rights, there are quite a few reasons why prisoner rights are important. For one, the USA has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, meaning that a lot of our population is facing abuse regularly. As such, with how difficult rehabilitation can be when your rights are regularly violated, it means more prisoners are likely going to return. With all of that, we’re basically putting a portion of the United States into a cycle of crime where we’re practically sending them back to prison because we didn’t teach them how to join back with society.