Kelly's Korner: Prisoners have rights - The Lookout - LCC's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1959
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Kelly's Korner: Prisoners have rights

Juanita Kelly-Hill

Juanita Kelly-Hill

By Juanita Kelly-Hill

Staff Writer

In honor of Universal Human Rights Month, I would like to scrutinize the American prison system.

There are 30 universal human rights that were adopted by the United Nations in 1948 that are supposed to protect every human being, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, nationality and birth place.

There are five rights that I would like to focus on in particular: no discrimination, no slavery, no torture or inhumane treatment, the right to work, and lastly, that human rights cannot be taken away.

If the above rights listed are to be universally recognized and protected, then it raises the question: Could the American prison system be considered a violation of human rights?

Looking at the conditions of prisons and the treatment of those imprisoned, they are in clear violation of the right to no torture or inhumane treatment. The food being served has little nutritional value, and the boarding conditions are less than humane.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a survey of prisoners reported being paid pennies for their labor, causing them not being able to afford basic living necessities, or being forced to work or face additional punishment. This is considered to be a form of slavery.

The 13th Amendment explicitly excludes those who are convicted from the right to involuntary servitude and slavery, but is that not infringing the 30th right, that human rights cannot be taken away?

The prison-to-homelessness pipeline is another impact the American prison system has on those who have served time.

A person who has been released from prison has a record that follows them throughout their entire life. This record is closely looked at when one tries to re-enter society, especially when looking for work.

Most places won’t hire a person who was convicted of a felony, or even consider a person with a criminal record as a potential employee. If a person cannot work, they cannot make the funds required to survive in this society. This results in homelessness, or partaking in illegal work that could land them back in prison.

If the point of prison is rehabilitation, then society should be more welcoming to those who were once convicted. Resources should be made available to help them navigate their way through society once again.



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