Prisoners’ Rights

According to Easton, the issue of prisoners’ rights is now re-surfacing as a significant part of debate in the context of citizenship after a long while of continued neglect. The sudden interest in this matter sparks from the increase in number of riots and disorder especially within English prisons, which culminated in the Woolf report. Additionally, the new advances in the laws regarding prisons and the jurisprudence extension of human rights by the European Courts, as well as the inclusion of the European Convention within the Human Rights Act of 1998 play important roles in the new concerns. However, the question remains whether it actually makes sense, philosophically and socio-legally to discuss the rights of prisoners.

In view of this, Hudson asserted that prisoners, like any other human beings are entitled to all the other human rights, except that they do not enjoy the liberty that the rest of the world relishes. He argues that, from a legal point of view, the only right that is limited is the right to freedom, since this is regulated by their confinement. Otherwise, they are entitled to the other basic rights.

Some of the basic rights that the prisoners should enjoy include the right to unrestricted access to courts whenever required, the right against physical assault and the right to medical services whenever need arises. Conversely, the state reserves the mandate to restrict enjoyment of these rights in cases where there is a threat to prison security and the safety of other inmates, or the particular prisoner in question. However, the restriction measures should be consistent with the legal structure and the required extent for limitations.

Therefore, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the conditions of incarceration should remain within the framework of the constitution and protect the health, safety and human dignity of all prisoners in the light of humanity. Consequently, the best way to promote this is to allow prisoners to express themselves fully in court and to vote, in the spirit of democracy. This was in light of the contentious issue of whether prisoners should be allowed to vote, a factor within the democratic construction of many societies which have experienced no problems allowing it. Thus it remains the only way to contain violent riots and abuses that thrive in the prisons today for the sake of human decency.