Principles of Corrections: Prisoner’s Rights

Principles of Corrections: Prisoner’s Rights

Prisoner’s Rights

The American Correctional system has witnessed massive changes since the beginning of the 20th century. The American courts previously had a hand off-doctrine on prison regarding inmates as state prisoners. However, the 1970s became a hallmark for reforms within the correctional system when the courts dropped the hands-off approach on prisons, providing limited rights to prisoners as well as the power to sue state officials in federal courts for violation of rights. Presently prisoners enjoy freedoms of speech the right to religion, rights to equal protection under the law and rights during prison disciplinary proceedings. These rights are essential since inmates are human beings, and while stripping rights is crucial to punishment and rehabilitation, denial of rights only tend to make them worse instead. On the other hand, however, through the Hudson v. Palmer (1984) the court upheld the need to deny prisoners right to privacy. This denial is probably necessitated by the need for security officers to access prisoners’ rights to search prisoner belongings for security reasons (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2015). This reasoning is validated since, some prisoners if allowed to the right of privacy, may engage in contraband.

  1. The significance of the 1983 suits

The Cooper v Pate 378 U.S 546 case that took place in the mid-60s led to the court ruling that gave prisoners the right to sue the facilities housing them if their confinement is done unjustly which resulted in a surge of the 1983 suits. Even though the idea of an inmate challenging their prison staff appears unnatural and a tough task, the ruling ensures that inmates are treated fairly. It enables them to exercise their rights to beliefs or religion (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2015). The 1983 suits, in my opinion, also promote the accountability of the prison staff and the entire correctional facility at large. Prisoners also have a right to petition the court using a Writ of Habeas Corpus under the 1983 suits.

  1. Case analysis

The women’s movement opted to pursue their rights via courts instead of going to the ballot referenda, legislation or other channels. This is because the women are striving for a level field by fighting for rights that were already granted to male inmates. The 1974 Barefield v. Leach case was a clear indication of the harsh conditions that the female inmates have to put up with. The programs and opportunities in female correctional institutions are way inferior when compared to those of their male counterparts. Women may have serious symptoms like lumps that the prison system ignores (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2015). Some of the women get lied to about their diagnoses when it comes to chronic illnesses such as cancer since the prisons tend to avoid footing their medical care.

  1. Executive Decisions

Personally, I would advocate for the legislation that requires that young infants be in their mother’s custody until they are slightly above three years. This is because the first few months to the age of three represents the formative stage of a child’s development and are very critical. Additionally, preventing women from having to take care of their newborns only expands the problems that the correction system has. Infants and growing children, require their parents to nurture them through the early stages, while at the same time it is important that recidivism and crime rates are reduced. While punishment is paramount, no child should be punished for their mother’s mistake by separating them. Separating them, only creates a negative perception of prisons, while at the same time is more likely to lead the infant into the same prisons system.


  1. Case summary (elderly inmates)

It is mandated by the law for correctional institutions to provide medical care to inmates. It is, however, costly to take care of older prisoners as they are prone to different ailments. Demographically, the medical cost for older women is eight to ten percent more than that of older men. Financial constraints are usually felt by correctional institutions when it comes to taking care of older inmates who are serving longer sentences. Successful lawsuits against correctional institutions and even payment of restitution can be made by the institutions should they fail to adequately care for inmates that they house (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2015).

  1. Challenges that elderly inmates pose for correctional institutions

Elderly inmates pose several challenges to correctional institutions especially with the rampant increase in the American prison population. To begin with, older inmates are more prone to illnesses, mental health issues such as dementia and disability when compared to their younger counterparts. This forces the correctional facilities to allocate more funds to care for aging inmates. The institutions have to restructure their facilities by making showers and washrooms that can be accessed by wheelchairs and broadening their doorways to accommodate the elderly. The management of the correctional institutions also has to hire or recruit more health care personnel and nurses the ailing elderly by delivering sufficient patient care and administering medication (Chettiar & Bunting, 2012). All these are additional expenditures since the institutions are not designed or structured to handle geriatric facilities. Another challenge to the correctional institutions is training their officers on how to take care of the aging inmates. The prison officers have to be vigilant in protecting the older inmates as they are subject not only to sexual violations but also physical victimization by the younger inmates. Such incidences of abuse could also result in the successful lawsuits against the correctional institutions for failing to ensure the security of the elderly inmates adequately.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of releasing elderly inmates

The population in prisons has recorded a steady increase over the years thus calling for the release of some elderly inmates. One advantage of releasing aging inmates from jail is that it relieves the correctional facilities of overcrowding. Many jails are burdened with a high population of inmates which puts a strain on the prison facilities and costs the prison administrators more funds to manage. Another advantage is that releasing inmates who are extremely ill could save the nation large amounts of money. Most elderly prisoners are subject to illnesses that are expensive to manage (Psick, Ahalt, Brown, & Simon, 2017; Schmalleger & Smykla, 2015). They also require restructuring of the facilities for their ease in movement and adequate protection which is also quite expensive. Releasing the aging inmates could, therefore, save taxpayers millions of dollars that would be otherwise used in taking care of them. On the other hand, however, releasing elderly inmates has some disadvantages. Some of them may opt to go back to crime after being released, especially those who were convicted of serious crimes such as murder and sexual abuse. Their release, in this case, could be termed as a security threat to society.

  1. Opinion on geriatric prisons

Geriatric prisons are undoubtedly an essential part of society. This is because the issue of elderly inmates has stirred several debates. Despite their past heinous acts, aging inmates still have rights that need to be upheld. Leaving them in prisons with younger inmates put their security at risk and causes overcrowding in those correctional institutions (Rachael Bedard, Metzger, & Williams, 2016). Releasing them back into the society is also a security risk as age is not a guarantee for good behavior. It is therefore ethical, legal and morally acceptable to embrace the geriatric prisons. The prisons ensure that the aging inmates are adequately attended to medically and given adequate protection while making them complete their sentences thus keeping the society safe.

Part 2

Opinion on the death penalty

The death penalty has become the subject of many debates over the years. There are many discussions on whether the death penalty deters violent crime and whether or not it should be abolished. In my opinion, the death penalty has no deterrent effect on violent crime. To begin with, there is no substantial or concrete evidence to prove the reduction of crime as a result of emphasizing the death penalty. Secondly, some notable criminologists argue that the death penalty increases the likelihood of increased murders since the penalty brutalizes members of society (Gupta, 2013; Hong & Kleck, 2017). Thirdly, studies have proven that there are lower rates of murders in the American states that have abolished the death penalty when compared to the states that employ the penalty. Besides, most murderers act without adequately weighing the possibilities of either getting sentenced to life imprisonment or executed while some of them do not believe that they can be traced and apprehended. Most murders are also usually carried out by either people under substance abuse who act impulsively or people who act in moments of emotional instability such as anger. These everyday occurrences are an indication that employing the death penalty has no deterrent effect on violent crime.

The justice system ought to cease the use of the death penalty as a punishment for capital crime. For starters, it is both morally and ethically wrong to use someone’s life to create a deterrent effect on violent crime (Hong & Kleck, 2017). The act causes more harm than good to society. In some cases, courts usually make wrong judgments when there is a distortion of evidence, lack of credible witnesses and poor or rushed investigations. The death penalty in such a case could result in the execution of innocent people. The implementation denies convicts the opportunity to prove their innocence. This makes the justice system not only unfair but also brews contempt and loss of belief in the system among members of the society. The legislature ought to, therefore, embrace a more humane punishment for capital crime; life imprisonment.



Chettiar, I., & Bunting, W. (2012, June 13). Keeping Low-Risk Elderly Prisoners Behind Bars Is a Budget Buster. Retrieved from Center For American Progress:

Gupta, M. (2013). What are the Pros and Cons of Death Penalty? Indian Journal of Clinical Practice, 23(10), 666-669.

Hong, M., & Kleck, G. (2017). The Short-Term Deterrent Effect of Executions: An Analysis of Daily Homicide Counts. Crime & Delinquency, 64(7), 939-970.

Psick, Z., Ahalt, C., Brown, R., & Simon, J. (2017). Prison Boomers: Policy Implications of Aging Prison Populations. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 13(1), 57–63.

Rachael Bedard, Metzger, L., & Williams, B. (2016). Aging prisoners: An geriatric health-care challenges in correctional facilities. International Review of the Red Cross, 93(8), 917–939.

Schmalleger, F., & Smykla, J. O. (2015). Corrections in the 21st Century (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.