Human Rights Violations of Prisoners

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Even as criminals who violate the rights of others, rights are universal and entitled by all and therefore prisoners may claim their own.

This article aims to spread awareness of the controversy of human rights violations against prisoners and introduce key points to take into consideration when learning this subject matter.

Additionally, this article will recount what the human rights for prisoners should entail.

Human Rights Principles for Basic Prisoners

Human Rights Principles for Basic Prisoners

Human rights are universal, given to people by nature and must not be violated. This includes criminals, no matter how dangerous.

The Basic Prisoners’ Human Rights Principles were ratified by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on December 14th, 1990, and was declared as follows:

  1. All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
  2. There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  3. It is, however, desirable to respect the religious beliefs and cultural percepts of the group to which prisoners belong, whenever local conditions so require.
  4. The responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State’s other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.
  5. Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, where the State concerned is a party, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol thereto, as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants.
  6. All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.
  7. Efforts addressed to the abolition of solitary confinement as a punishment, or to the restriction of its use, should be undertaken and encouraged.
  8. Conditions shall be created enabling prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment which will facilitate their reintegration into the country’s labour market and permit them to contribute to their own financial support and to that of their families.
  9. Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the ground of their legal situation.
  10. With the participation and help of the community and social institutions, and with due regard to the interests of victims, favourable conditions shall be created for the reintegration of the ex-prisoner into society under the best possible conditions.
  11. The above Principles shall be applied impartially.

Until the implementation of these Principles and the strict prohibition by the Convention against Torture, cruel and inhumane punishment and interrogation by torture were routinely conducted.

Prisoner Human Rights Issues

Prisoner Human Rights Issues

Increasingly becoming a social issue, there have been many disputes over the violation of human rights of prisoners.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Reference : “Universal Declaration of Human Rights – United Nations”

There are largely 2 issues presented for human rights issues for prisoners:

  • Public Health
  • Violence

Detailed accounts of each issue below.

Public Health

As a fundamental right, public health policies stipulate that the best possible environmental conditions should be guaranteed to maintain good health.

For this reason, it is mandatory to consider the environment in prisons for the prisoners to not endure any health issues.

Nevertheless, numerous prisons in the United States fail to consider population as a factor that poses a threat to public health. There have been cases of catastrophic spread of tuberculosis and HIV that have been brought up as a serious social issue.

It cannot be denied that there exists a large financial issue in attempting to solve this hygiene problem.



Violence against prisoners raises large complications with respect to human rights issues as it poses a risk for both the physical and mental health of the prisoners.

In many cases, outbreaks of violence between the prisoners and prison guards occur.

The major causes of prisoner violence are as follows:

  • Conflict between Ethnic Groups
  • Racism and Discrimination
  • Conflict between Gangs
  • Stress of Living Conditions

In addition to those mentioned above, boredom also plays a large role in prison violence.

Ideal Human Rights for Prisoners

The highest achievable health rights should be provided for the health and available medical care for prisoners.

There was a declaration to promote medical care in prison in 1998 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Ideal Human Rights for Prisoners

Human rights are defined as the following :

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.
Reference : “Human Rights – United Nations”

The universality of human rights requires companies and countries to take appropriate measures against criminals.

Below are the ideal conditions and human rights provided for prisoners:

  • Right to Health Care and a Hygienic Environment
  • Fairness and Equality

Right to Health Care and A Hygienic Environment

The highest achievable health rights should be provided for the health and available medical care for prisoners.

There was a declaration to promote medical care in prison in 1998 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Reference : “Universal Declaration of Human Rights – United Nations”

Fairness and Equality

Fairness and Equality

The responsibility to provide appropriate medical services and a hygienic environment for prisoners are now given to the state.

In accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prisoners are obligated to receive equal medical care as ordinary people.

Moreover, in more cases than not, prisoners show worsened health conditions when they first enter. Thus, a disruption in the medical system at prisons may cause a further decline in their health.

Non-discrimination cuts across all international human rights law. This principle is present in all major human rights treaties. It also provides the central theme of 2 core instruments: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Reference :”What are human right? – OHCHR

International Human Rights Standards to Regulate Treatment of Prisoners

International Human Rights Standards to Regulate Treatment of Prisoners

For prisoners, reform and reapplication are considered to be the fundamental purpose of their stay in prison.

International Human Rights Standards declare the protection of human rights of prisoners and, without exception, the prohibition of torture and barbarous punishment.

In reality, not many show prejudices against prisoners who have caused societal damage, hence the importance for all to understand and spread awareness of human rights of prisoners.

The issue still remains; How will released prisoners be treated in society, in businesses and by the government?

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