13 November 2018
Inmate Mistreatment and Abuses in the United States
The United States has many inmates housed in its various prisons around the country, but what people don’t know about these prisons in the mistreatment and inmate abuse that occurs within the walls of these prisons. The mistreatment and abuse that occurs is hardly known to citizens outside the prison system because it is not a reality, they face day to day and these abuses and mistreatments ultimately violate the human rights of inmates as well. Inmates in Untied States prisons have their human rights violated by the mistreatment and abuse they undergo while incarcerated.
People incarcerated in prisons in the United States are abuse and mistreated because there is no central prison monitoring system that oversees all prisons. These mistreatments and abuses also violate the human rights that every citizen in the U.S. is given by the constitution. These abuses and mistreatments are incidents such as beating prisoners and not giving them proper meals. Deborah Labelle gives examples of the abuses and mistreatments inmates have undergone, “… pointing to how they have suffered long term isolation in dungeon-like holes, beatings, inadequate food, racial discrimination, and rampant violence in the prisons of this country” (Labelle 86). There are instances inmates are put into isolation in improper holding places, beaten by prion guards, and are fed improperly. Even though prisoners are incarcerated for the crimes they have committed this doesn’t mean that it is legal to treat them any less then a nonincarcerated person would be treated. Prison guards implicate there on terms on punishment for prisoners when desired. One prisoner reported being “handcuffed above his head to a hitching post shirtless in the sun without water or breaks for seven hours at a time as punishment for a rule infraction” (Labelle 92). This punishment is cruel and unusual; which violates the eighth amendment and the prisoner’s human rights. These cruel and unusual punishments aren’t just wrong but are not allowed because they can cause the death of inmates. As one instance played out “an inmate died after being kept for a day in a restraining chair that immobilized him” (Mariner 10). Inmates are killed by the improper treatment imposed upon them by corrections officers and that wasn’t the only instance an inmate died. Mariner gives another example of when a prisoner died stating, “… began struggling with corrections officers at a moment when his blood sugar was dangerously low. The officers stunned him three time with the Ultron ll stun device and then placed him in restraints. Frazier lapsed into a coma and died several days later.” (Mariner 10). Inmates are abused and mistreated by corrections officers which can even end up with the unintentional death of an inmate when all that had to be done was follow proper punishment procedures and act within guidelines.
Corrections officers use abuse and mistreatment in prisons everyday and abuse and mistreatment start to become a norm in the prisons. Abuses and mistreatments are used to even keep order in prisons for the benefit of the corrections officers. As Mark Hansen addressed, “… the threat of rape is used as a management tool to maintain control over the inmate population” (Hansen 17). The threat of rape against the inmates isn’t just stated, but actually acted upon and inmates are put in cells with notorious rapists as punishment. One inmate “alleges that guards there intentionally set him up to be raped by placing him in a cell with a well-known rapist as punishment for which he kicked a female corrections officer” (Hansen 17). The inmate was put in a cell with a notorious rapist; which led to him being raped multiple times while in the cell before his punishment was over and he was removed from the cell. Correction officers should not have the ability to cause the rape of an inmate just to serve as a punishment. Corrections officers have the ability to abuse their power and cause harm and abuse upon prisoners without consequences. Corrections officers even go to the extent to abuse and mistreat prisoners who have not violated any rules or acted out in a violent way against them. At a prison in Virginia prisoners reported, “… being forced to wear black hoods, in theory to keep them from spitting on guards, and say they were often beaten and cursed at by guards and made to crawl on their knees” (Butterfield 11). Prisoners are being beaten and mistreated for no reason besides for the enjoyment of the guards and their ability to do so. These abuses and mistreatments aren’t just by the physical force the guards use against the prisoners, but also by letting criminal acts take place within the prison between prisoners so the guards don’t have to address the problem. A federal judge enacted a decree because he found out “that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex” (Butterfield 11). Prison guards allowed prisoners human rights to be violated and allowed other prisons to commit more crimes while incarcerated. Corrections officers see themselves as in power and above inmates, causing corrections officers to not have concern as to properly treating inmates and handling internal crimes that would otherwise lead to a proper court hearing and sentencing.
Women who are incarcerated are not free from the abuses and mistreatment just because of there gender, and pregnant women are no exception from having their human rights violated either. Pregnant women who are incarcerated don’t receive the necessary treatment and medical care that they need and that nonincarcerated pregnant women receive. Guidelines were set and according to Lorie Goshin, “These guidelines acknowledge the duty of correctional facilities to provide pregnancy counseling, prenatal care, appropriate nutrition, and prenatal health education, as well as care for substance use and mental illness. Available evidence suggests that correctional facilities across the United States do not adhere to these voluntary guidelines” (Goshin 56). As Goshin goes to explain the guidelines currently set explain the extent of what correctional facilities must do to accommodate for pregnant women, but these guidelines are only voluntary, and many facilities do not follow them leaving many incarcerated pregnant women without proper care. Incarcerated pregnant women also don’t receive different accommodations during transport or to increase accessibility and safety around the prison for them. As Goshin pointed out, “… incarcerated populations is the use of restraints or “shackling” during transport. Restraints create the following unique and potentially life-threatening health risks for pregnant women and their fetuses: increased risk for falls, impeded labor progress, and inability of health care providers to quickly assess and treat obstetric emergencies” (Goshin 56). Pregnant women are still shackled like all other inmates causing huge safety problems for the women and the unborn baby because of the limited mobility that can result in falling and reduce reaction time in instances of emergency. Pregnant women are still in the same cells and prisons without an increase in safety to ensure that they do not slip or that not harm is caused to them or the fetus. The violation of human rights applies to all incarcerated women as well. Women in prisons were subject to more sexual related violence than men but were also subject to physical violence by prison guards. Deborah Labelle summarized a lawsuit and stated, “It was in this milieu that women prisoners in Michigan decided to file a class action lawsuit seeking relief from years of sexual assaults, rapes, and sexual harassment by male guards and staff employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections” (Labelle 101). These incarcerated women in the Michigan Department of Corrections were subject to ongoing sexual abuse by male prison guards and staff. These sexual abuses were committed by many of the prison guards and staff and no one spoke out against the incidents taken place. Ongoing abuses like these can be stopped in a central prison monitoring agency was created to prevent guards and other prison staff from carrying out these acts. Labelle also stated, “There was also a growing awareness of the additional punishments, in the form of sexual and physical violence, which women were subjected to during their incarceration …” (Labelle 98). With time the sexual and physical abuse that incarcerated women went through become more apparent and noticeable to people. Even with these abuses becoming more apparent the amount of action taken towards these issues is minimal with most instances just ending up in a court hearing. Women are subject to just as much if not more abuse and mistreatment than men in the prison system. Human rights are just violated by the guards and staff that work within the prisons, but also the government by the grounds they choose to build the prisons on.
Prisons in the United States are built on or near contaminated grounds; consequently, putting inmates health at risk and causing health problems. Statistics show, “… at least 589 federal and state prisons are located within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site on the National Priorities List, with 134 of those prisons located within just one mile.” (Bernd, et al 19). The cleanup sites are contaminated with debris and chemicals that make the air and water harmful to the people exposed to it. The inmates have no choice but to put up with the harmful conditions that are present to them. An instance where prisoners had no choice but to be exposed to the harmful conditions is highlighted by Candice Bernd, “The water at the Unit contained between two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half times the level of arsenic permitted by the EPA. Arsenic is a carcinogen. The prisoners drank thousands of gallons of the arsenic-tainted water for more than 10 years” (Benrd, et al 22). Prisoners had no choice but to drink water that could cause them to contract cancer for over 10 years before they received clean drinking water. The water they were drinking had over twice the acceptable limit of arsenic present in it due to a nearby contaminated site. However, not all solutions to solve the problem of contaminated drinking water are completely safe. One solution to clean drinking water is by adding chlorine to the water to disinfect it, but the problem with adding too much chlorine is that the byproduct produced (TTHM) is also harmful to humans when the level present is to high. One instance of this is when a water test was conducted after adding chlorine to the prisons water supply and the results showed “that it had consistently exceeded the EPA’s maximum levels for TTHMs, exposure to which is associated with adverse health effects, including cancer” (Benrd, et al 21). The inmates had water that was free of one dangerous chemical, but now was contaminated with another. Inmates should not be forced to live with hazardous drinking water. If we don’t force incarcerated citizens to live in hazardous conditions, then we shouldn’t force inmates to live in these conditions with can cause serious health problems and lead to death. The contamination of drinking water is not a problem only present at a few prisons, but it is a widespread problem across the nation. An investigation on the water quality at prisons “found that violations of drinking water contamination, including by arsenic and lead, are not isolated to prisons like Wallace Pack, but are present at many prisons, jails, and detention centers across the nation. In fact, according to the EPA’s enforcement database, federal and state agencies brought 1,149 informal actions and 78 formal actions against regulated prisons, jails, and detention centers” (Benrd, et al 23). Prison facilities across America are providing harmful and life-threatening water to the inmates housed and this is a problem caused by the government because of there knowledge of harmful conditions nearby, but still continuing to build prisons within relatively close distances.
Inmates in American prisons are subject to abuse and mistreatment, ultimately violating the human rights that nonincarcerated people have. Inmates suffer from abuses and mistreatments such as being beat, being sexually abused, and even being given punishments that lead to death. Inmates are forced to suffer through bad living conditions such as contaminated water that can cause cancer. These abuses and mistreatments stay relatively unknown by nonincarcerated people, but that doesn’t mean these abuses and mistreatments don’t occur.