What are Prisoner Rights?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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Prisoner rights are basic human rights that many people think should be accorded to prisoners. The argument is that, even though prisoners have been incarcerated for the commission of a crime, they are still living human beings, and they therefore deserve human rights, just like all other humans. Of special concern to some advocates are prisoners of conscience and other individuals who may not belong in prison, along with people who are imprisoned in nations where they are not citizens.

Some rights given to prisoners are not terribly controversial. For example, most advocates agree that prisoners have the right to safe living conditions, wholesome food, and medical care. Assault in prisons is a constant problem, and addressing assaults and rapes is an important part of advocacy. In addition, many people also believe that people in prison deserve certain legal protections, including the right to an attorney, access to the appeals process, the appeal to sue for better living conditions, and other protections that are guaranteed to prisoners by law, but not necessarily enforced.


Advocates for prisoner rights also argue that inmates deserve the right to visits from friends, family members, and concerned individuals. They should also be entitled to freedom of speech and religion, liberties that are severely curtailed for prisoners in many regions of the world. Freedom from torture and legal abuse is also supported by advocates, and many of them also support access to education, work opportunities, and reading materials, arguing that personal improvement should be a part of the prison experience for those who ask for it.

Other rights that have been brought up in this movement include things like conjugal visits, passes for temporary leave on the basis of good behavior, and an increase in wages for jobs performed as a prisoner. Many nations use inmates as a source of cheap or free labor, with prisoners typically receiving little or no pay for their work, and some advocates argue that this is little better than slavery.

Many human rights organizations promote prisoner rights, using a variety of techniques including advocating for individual prisoners, pushing for reforms in the prison system, and lobbying for changes in the law. Supporters believe that no matter what crime someone has been convicted of committing, he or she is entitled to respect, dignity and basic rights, along with avenues to appeal a verdict and to protest unfair treatment and cruel conditions.


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Post 7

To say all prisoners deserve to be hanged and should have the exact same treatment seems barbaric.

Post 6

Prisoners should not have any rights. They should not be able to watch TV, to write letters, read or use the internet. It is completely and utterly ridiculous. Did the people they harmed get that chance? No. If they get raped, they deserve it. We should hang people like we used to.

Post 5

I served 60 days of work release in a county jail 10 years ago. I know first hand that prisoners of any kind have no rights. They are unable to voice any concern or objection without hostility in return. I could not even get released on time or at all in order to hang on to my job.

Who are jail guards accountable to? No one from my experience. They get away with whatever they please and compound the already pervasive social problem.

Post 4

To AimeeJazz: Yes, I can think of at least one very good argument in favor of performing ethical medical research on prisoners.

Provided that adequate safeguards are put in place in order to avoid exploitation and abuse, there are many types of biomedical research on prisoners that could provide major benefits for the prison population.

A very simple example would be a study looking into an illness or disease which specifically affects prisoners. For example, suicide is one of the primary causes of mortality among prisoners, and an epidemiological study (involving the study of statistics and prisoner files) could lead to a better understanding of the problem and improved methods of prevention.

Post 3

If they voluntary participate in experiments, it's OK. If not, I agree totally with anon35615 (even if I'm not religious). Forced human experimentation is nothing else than torture, and torture is worse than the capital punishment (and I hate all cruel medieval methods). You shall follow the 1947 Nuremberg Code. The Nazis carried out experiments on humans, but then everybody thought it was gone.

Post 2

To reply to aimeejazz's question.

There is no pro side to performing medical research/experiements on prisoners. This is comparable to the experiments the Nazis did on Jewish prisoners in WWII camps. These individuals are human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus said, "whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do to me". There were no exceptions in this statement. These people are someone's sons and daughters, mothers or fathers. If not for the grace of God, any one of us could be in their shoes. No one is perfect. These people are part of humanity, good people for the most part, who have made a mistake. There is only one person I

know of that "walked on water". The rest of us should have compassion and try to seek to understand those who are behind bars and have probably suffered a lot, long before reaching prison. How you judge others, and what you do to others, will be the measure that you are judged by.

Before you judge someone else as being worthy or not worthy, ask yourself, if that was your loved one, what would you want for them.

An experiement? --Michael

Post 1

i am doing a debate soon for a law and ethics class. my assigned portion is the pro-side of performing medical research/experiments on prisoners. can anyone point me in the right direction for passing this assignment? thank you

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