Lee MWF 10am
UNIV 111 Paper 3
Across the country every day in the US Prison system there are numerous incidents revolving around the abuse of prisoners by the guards whose jobs are supposed to be to protect the inmates. In this essay we will evaluate multiple different stories told about prisoners in drastically different parts of America, but they all have a common theme of prisoners being abused by those in power, the guards; furthermore, many inmates are treated in inhumane ways such as starving or not allowing prisoners in solitary confinement access to water. Many guards have been reported for mentally and physically abusing inmates especially those with mental health issues who cannot understand or respond to every order given to them. Additionally, it has become systematic that when this type of abuse occurs since actions in prisons are confidential that most prisons either won’t report these claims of prisoner abuse or will take minimum disciplinary action against guards which leaves them mostly unchecked and unaccountable for their actions. Many guards even promote a violent environment by not intervening during prisoner on prisoner violence. Moreover, since the passing of the PLRA in 1996 it has become more difficult for prisoners to file grievances and gain the ability to go to court and gain compensation for their abuse; additionally, this lengthy process usually leads to retaliation from guards before they even have a chance to make it to court and change their mind due to this coercion by the guards. Some laws have been enacted to help protect the rights of these prisoners such as PREA which is supposed to help make sure prisons are collecting data about rapes and sexual abuse occurring in prisons and preventing them; however, this is an optional law and states are even compensated for participating, yet only 13 out of 50 states are PREA compliant. Meanwhile, most prisoners continue to be subjected to mental, physical, sexual, and emotional violence at the hands of guards and other inmates without any consequences for the offenders. As Victoria Law wrote, “These criticisms are nothing new, countless survivors have faced similar challenges for not reporting assaults and attempted assaults, this is particularly true for incarcerated survivors, who know that reporting sexual abuse is more likely to result in more punishment for them and little to no accountability for the person who harmed them.” In this instance she clearly states that it is more dangerous for inmates to report sex crimes committed against them because it will only make their lives more dangerous and miserable. It is the responsibility of the US Legal system to give these inmates who are fellow human beings the same basic rights and treatment that every human deserves, and to hold the people trying to limit those freedoms accountable for their actions.
In the US Prison system guards are not protecting the inmates; rather, they are either the source of the prisoners’ torment or encourage an environment where abuse of prisoners by other prisoners is acceptable; subsequently, this is a violation of the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. An example of the systematic support of this abuse occurred in September of 2017, as shown in this quote about a New York lawyer’s attempt to find justice, “Laufer filed a lawsuit alleging that after 35-year-old Roberto Grant was beaten to death at MCC in May 2015, the prison staff tried to cover it up, by telling his Grant’s family he’d died of an overdose.” (Stahl) this may seem like an unlikely story, as it is the job of the guards to protect the prisoners and many inmates have suffered from some form of substance abuse, but when the author reached out to the medical examiner for a copy of the autopsy the report stated “the father of two had suffered “blunt force injuries of the head, neck, torso, and extremities” and had no detectable traces of drugs in his system.” (Stahl). This revelation alone shows how the US Prison system would rather lie to a dead man’s family than accept accountability for the actions that they allow to occur; more importantly, these actions implant the idea of invincibility into the minds of the perpetrators of these actions since they now know that there are no consequences for their actions. Similarly, the rights of a 25-year-old trans women named Venus Williams were violated in a prison in East Arkansas. Williams had previously been incarcerated and been caught having consensual sex with another inmate which was a violation of prison rules and been placed in isolation, upon re-entering because she was labeled “victim-prone”. The prison did this presuming it would be for her safety in a male prison, but it had the opposite effect. The now 33 year old Williams said “The past eight years have been pure hell and full of verbal harassment, discrimination and physical assault by a correctional officer back in 2012,”( Law) as horrifying as this sounds Williams torment did not just end with the guards she was later quoted saying “When I walk past inmates’ cells fully shackled to be escorted to shower, inmates throw urine on me, throw batteries, pieces of trash and soaps at me and the guards do nothing about it but laugh. The guards do not even try to protect me at all.” This not only shows how the abuse from guards inside the prisons is being ignored and going unpunished, but it also creates an environment where fellow inmates feel free to abuse and punish others, furthermore it emphasizes how the guards are clearly not doing their jobs and are allowing prisoners to be abused by other inmates instead of trying to protect them like they’re being paid to do. In conclusion, the US Prison system has no system of real accountability for its guards and inmates and this creates a culture where the abuse of prisoners is not only allowed but encouraged as well.
As well as the lack of accountability for prisoners and guards’ actions prisoners’ basic constitutional rights are violated routinely by the US Prison system. First, addressing the issues of guards’ actions against prisoners these violations include, torture, use of unnecessary force, and unjust punishment. For example, an article discussing a lawsuit filed due to the abuse suffered by Latino immigrants in a Shenandoah prison reads “In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. Though no forbidden items were found, the teenager was transferred to "Alpha Pod," described in the lawsuit as a unit within the facility designated for children who engage in bad behavior.” (Associated Press) this excerpt shows how prisoners were mistreated and punished for actions that they never committed unjustly. Not only were they being unjustly punished but also tortured and beaten as well, the lawsuit also claimed that “Latino children were frequently punished by being restrained for hours in chairs, with handcuffs and cloth shackles on their legs. Often, the lawsuit alleged, the children were beaten by staff while bound.” (Associated Press) This is a clear use of malicious and unnecessary force bordering torture, not only that, but the lawsuit also claimed that inmates suffered from psychological and physical injuries due to this abuse. These injustices are unacceptable and violate the basic rights of inmates as human beings. Not only are prisoners’ rights being violated every day but they are being forced to live in inhumane and dangerous environments as well, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City is known for its rat infested cells and its heinous living conditions. Multiple prisoners who had formerly been held at the facility located in Manhattan spoke in an interview and said, “The mice would find their way into commissary boxes and gnaw away at their food.” (Stahl) So not only were they forced to live in rodent infested spaces, but these rodents would also eat away at their food rations which were more than likely of low quality in the first place. Additionally, one former inmate Ricardo Stewart stated, ““We saw rats so big it seemed like they could only be in the sewer.”- “But they wasn't in the streets or the sewers,” Stewart added. “They were more like roommates.”” This shows that these rodents and disgusting conditions were not only accepted but had become normalized to the point that they were viewed more as a part of the prison itself rather than an issue that required a solution. At the end of the day it is the responsibility of the US government and the US Prison system to protect not only the public from the criminals, but to protect the rights and lives of these criminals who are human beings at the end of the day.
Lastly, pointing out the conditions and dangers that prisoners face everyday does nothing to actually help them, they still must suffer through these injustices and violation of rights every day. It is the responsibility of the government and the people of the United States to make a change in legislation that protects the most basic rights of our fellow American citizens who are incarcerated. Just think how you would feel if yourself or someone you know and loved was forced to endure these terrible conditions in a US Prison, start with yourself and work to give your fellow human beings back the rights they deserve.
Law, Victoria. “For People Behind Bars, Reporting Sexual Assault Leads to More Punishment.” Truthout, Truthout, 30 Sept. 2018, truthout.org/articles/for-people-behind-bars-reporting-sexual-assault-leads-to-more-punishment/.
Ptacin, Mira. “Guards vs. Inmates: Mistreatment and Abuse in the US Prison System.” Guards vs. Inmates: Mistreatment and Abuse in the US Prison System (In Partnership with Starz from VICE Media), partners.vice.com/starz/starzpowers4/news/guards-vs-inmates-mistreatment-and-abuse-in-the-us-prison-system/.
Stahl, Aviva. “Prisoners Endure A Nightmare 'Gulag' In Lower Manhattan, Hidden In Plain Sight.” Gothamist, 19 June 2018, gothamist.com/2018/06/19/mcc_jail_human_rights_torture.php.
“Young Immigrants Held for Years in Virginia Detention Center Claim Horrific Abuse.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 21 June 2018, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/young-immigrants-held-years-virginia-detention-center-claim-horrific-abuse-n885276.
1. What is the thesis, claim, or purpose of your essay?
The claim of my essay is that prisoners in the US Prison system deserve more rights
2. What did you do well in the essay? What could you improve upon in the essay?
I used relevant and quality sources to use quotes that emphasized the point that I was attempting to make and support with evidence. I could improve on being too wordy with my explanations of my claims.
3. Which part of the essay was easiest to write? Which was most difficult?
The easiest part of this essay to write was the Introduction since it was basically a summary of the topic which we had already done in the Unit 2 paper. The hardest part of this essay was finding good sources that helped emphasize my point without being overly biased or un trustworthy.
4. What sentence or paragraph do you think is most effective and why? What sentence do you find the least effective and why?
I believe my first body paragraph where I explained the atrocities committed by guards and the lack of punishment for their actions is the most effective since it shows what would considered to be atrocities that would land a normal citzen in jail going unpunished is very eye opening. I believe my introductory paragraph was the least effective since it was mostly providing background information that did not necessarily serve the purpose of proving my claim but provided information necessary to understand the topi
5. What do you want the reader to take away from what you’ve written? Why?
That although US prisoners may have committed crimes and broken the law, they are still human being who deserve rights like every other person in the US.