Prisoner Abuse

The matter of prisoner abuse is a serious one, one that is receiving a great deal of attention lately, as the methods of interrogation currently being used on prisoners of the war on terrorism are becoming public knowledge.

Most of the industrialized world has laws regulating the treatment of prison inmates and the prevention of prisoner abuse. In times long past, the routine treatment of incarcerated persons was very akin to today's measure of cruel and unusual punishment.

Prisoner abuse comes in many guises and from many sources. It can range from unprovoked beatings and other forms of physical harm to sexual and psychological torture. The abuse can come from prison personnel but it often comes from fellow inmates, too.

Psychological prisoner abuse often takes the form of taunting, insult, and ridicule but includes sleep deprivation and white noise, too. White noise means the sound of random static, similar to the sound a television makes when it is set to a channel that is inactive. The white noise is played loud and for very long periods of time. It can cause mental disorders, including insanity, as can sleep deprivation.

Any form of prisoner abuse that pushes the limit of psychological or physical endurance is torture and torture is generally outlawed in the industrialized nations of the world. Such treatment is often defined as cruel and unusual punishment.

Cruel and unusual punishment was first officially recognized as a form of prisoner abuse as long ago as 1689, when England's King William II and his co-ruler, Queen Mary II, included a ban on cruel and unusual punishment as part of the nation's Bill of Rights.

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In the criminal justice systems of many nations, cruel and unusual punishment includes capital punishment, or execution, as well as prisoner abuse that does not lead to death. No nation that allows the death penalty is allowed to join the European Union.

One form of prisoner abuse that is passive but terrifying nonetheless is that of forcing an inmate to bunk or work with prisoners who are likely to be antagonistic to each other. Placing one person of a race in a group of another race known to have a deep prejudice against the individual of the other race is one form of this type of passive prisoner abuse and so is placing someone within the reach of known sexual predators.

Some people claim prisoner abuse of any form or level should be abolished since being imprisoned is punishment enough. Others think that stance is soft on crime and prison confinement should be as unpleasant as possible.