Even Prisoners are Deserving of Basic Human Dignity and Respect
By Ken K. Gourdin
In The Salt Lake Tribune, the Associated Press’s Don Thompson reports on a recent shakeup in the administration of the California correctional system after two prison wardens retired amidst a spike in suicides among inmates at one California institution and a host of alleged misconduct at another such institution. See the story here, last accessed August 5, 2016: http://www.sltrib.com/home/4196994-155/california-wardens-retire-amid-prison-abuse.
Another commenter wrote that the best way to avoid being subject to the sort of mistreatment detailed in the story, including, among other things, quid pro quo sexual harrassment between inmates and correctional officers is to not commit the crimes that land one in the institution in the first place. In response, I wrote:
I agree. However, no matter who one is, no matter what one has done, and no matter what punishment one faces as a result, one still is entitled to be treated with basic human respect and decency, as well as to be afforded the rights and protections available under the United States Constitution and to California residents under the Constitution of the State of California. And it is possible, however unlikely, for someone who actually is innocent to be convicted of one or more crimes and, thus, to be subject to a sanction which one does not deserve.
Regardless of her crimes, if the state assumes responsibility for a prisoner’s welfare, the state has a special duty (legally speaking) to protect that prisoner from predation by other inmates. And if correctional officers are adversely affecting prisoners’ rights and abusing their own positions of trust by using those positions to gain sexual favors and other benefits to which they are not entitled, perhaps McDonalds and Wal-Mart have openings for which they are better suited.