What Is Prisoner Abuse?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 13 January 2020
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Prisoner abuse typically refers to any activity in which someone who is imprisoned, often in government-mandated custody, is unduly punished or tormented in some way. This can include physical abuse that involves unnecessary force used against a prisoner, especially one who is restrained, which may result in serious injury or death. Psychological prisoner abuse is also a major concern as long-term taunting, tormenting, and humiliation can result in severe emotional distress. Sexual abuse has been reported in numerous institutions around the world, including both actions by guards upon prisoners and sexual violence between prisoners that is unpunished or even condoned by administrators.

One of the most prevalent forms of prisoner abuse is physical violence conducted within a prison, which is either perpetrated by or allowed by guards. This kind of violence can take many different forms, though it often occurs when prisoners are beaten while restrained. Guards are typically extremely responsible professionals who are dedicated to protecting and overseeing prisoners to ensure they are able to serve their time without undue harm coming to them. In some instances, however, prisoner abuse occurs as guards act violently against prisoners, or when they allow inmates to brutally attack and even kill each other.


Psychological abuse can be a major concern in facilities that house political prisoners or contain inmates who committed non-violent crimes. Harassment that is ongoing can be devastating to the psyche of an inmate who already feels unsafe and forgotten by the rest of the world. Humiliation by guards or other convicts within a prison can also have a tremendous negative impact on the psychological well-being of prisoners and this type of mistreatment can escalate into physical or sexual prisoner abuse. Certain forms of torture, such as the use of lights and loud sounds or music to prevent sleep for extended durations, can cause extreme psychological torment that can sometimes create severe after-effects.

Sexual prisoner abuse also occurs with alarming frequency in many institutions. Rape by other inmates is one of the major concerns that many prisoners have, since they are within a captive and enclosed environment. While guards cannot always control the actions of prisoners, there are some cases in which administrators may knowingly permit rape or other sexual abuse to occur between one prisoner and another. In some instances, especially in facilities that house female inmates, guards may be responsible for rape and other prisoner abuse against the women confined at a facility.


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