Prisons in Latin America are overcrowded, violent and in most cases they do not have the primary services such as adequate food, healthy conditions and leisure activities; notwithstanding the fact that some of the leaders in these Latin America regions themselves have spent time behind bars in these prisons. As the rates of confinement have been on the rise in the area for the past two decades, jails in Latin America have become overcrowded.( Gugelberger, 1991 pg 02) Latin America's prisons have become packed, frightening facilities where prisoners really fight to survive. In Brazil for example where President Dilma Rousseff was imprisoned for three years in the 1970s by the former military regime, almost half of all the jails do not have enough beds for the prisoners.
Thesis: Prison conditions in Latin America have extended far and beyond the violation of human rights. These violations include unhygienic conditions, overcrowding, and deprivation of access to leisure and education and explicit violence addressed among detainees or collusion in prisoner against prisoner savagery.
Prison condition opponents argue that criminals should be punished and shamed for their crime. Denying someone their liberty and access to other primary services is the best and most appropriate way of ensuring that they are disciplined and humiliated for their criminal actions. Criminals should, therefore, be subjected to the conditions that are meant to deny them these rights and freedoms. Harsh prison conditions in Latin America are intended to reduce crime, act as a warning to other capable offenders and also acts as a way of deterring those who would have committed further criminal activities (Ungar, 2003 pg 908).
Generally, a prison is meant to be unpleasant. It includes denial to some of the essential services. These unpleasant conditions are intended to shape the behavior of the inmates and should not be withdrawn. Inmates are often people who have violated natural right to live, property, liberty among others. These people should be thereof subjected to conditions that deprive them these rights. The unpleasant jail conditions in Latin America are a perfect example. They ensure that the inmates are deprived of their right to participate in exchanges within their society (Hathazy, 2015 pg 12). The unfavorable conditions in these jails are therefore justified as punitive measures.
Most of the criminals in these prisons are convicted of murder, robbery, rape cases and other serious crimes that leave the society with fear and frustrations. When they are arrested and detained the society and in some instance their families, are relieved of these worries. These are people who have no mercy on others and should not be treated with any mercy regarding their health and access to essential services while in prison. Overcrowding in these prisons is justified since such criminals are a danger to the society and should not be left to walk freely just like they are not guilty. Criminals must be arrested and detained no matter what implication that brings to the existing prisons (Hathazy, 2015 pg 20).
Deaths that have been on the increase cannot be directly associated with the overcrowded prisons but rather the misconducts of the inmates themselves. The 60 deaths reported in a prison in the northeastern of Pedrinhas, cannot be directly related to its accommodation of excess inmates but rather the heinous behaviors of the convicted criminals. There are some cases where a jail accommodates only four inmates, but deaths still occur. In other instances, inmates collaborate with their friends who are outside the prison to bring them items that they eventually used to commit suicide (Gugelberger, 1991 pg 10). It is therefore not right to say that overcrowding in Latin Americas prison is the sole reason for the increase in inmate deaths.
Prisons pose far-reaching health consequences to the inmates. Since most of the prisoners in Latin America come from poor and less educated backgrounds, where access to sufficient health services is minimal, some of them who come to the prison for the first time may have existing health issues (Hathazy, 2015 pg 18). These conditions worsen in these overcrowded prisons since there is poor diet, inadequate health, poor ventilation and lack of leisure activities. Airborne diseases, psychiatric illnesses, HIV infections, malaria, STIs and other health related diseases such as diarrhea are the leading causes of deaths in these prisons. In some countries, the rate of TB infection is almost over 100 times in the prisons as compared to the outside community. These diseases also put prison wardens and other prison staff at a higher risk of infection. Since prison health means public health as they are not secluded from the society, and considering that the ex-prisoners finally return to the society after their release, it is important that prisons do not act as storages of diseases, but instead, their conditions should be improved for the betterment of public health (Ungar, 2003 pg 922).
Imprisonment in these prisons can, directly and indirectly, affect a person life as well as that of their families. At some point in life, the imprisoned person will be released from jail. If this individual had contracted incurable diseases such HIV, TB and other dangerous diseases due to the unhealthy conditions in these prisons, it automatically means that they cannot go back to their normal life and be a source of income for their families. Instead, these people become an additional burden to the household and the society as a whole all thanks to the harsh conditions in the prison (Ungar, 2003 pg 919). Instead of acting as a way of helping the imprisoned and the society, these prisons are bringing an additional cost because their conditions are not suitable for humans to live in due to overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, and exposure to many deadly diseases. In this way then, it is evident that the condition of these prisons contributes directly to the prisoners and family poverty and to the reduction of their countrys economic deterioration indirectly (Hathazy, 2015 pg 08).
Human rights are not a privilege but a necessity that should be enjoyed by all despite their position in the society. Just like the free people, inmates have a right to a better health condition, sanitation, freedom of movement, right to necessities such as food and water and right to access other things such as education. When prisoners are denied these necessities through subjection to harsh conditions in prison it equals to a violation of their rights as human being, something that should not be happening.
It is not entirely necessary for criminals to be taken to those filthy jails in Latin American regions. Non- conservative convictions and procedures can be successfully applied as an approach to crime and therapeutic method for the criminals. It can help in reducing deaths, diseases and other dangers that come along with Isolation and punishment measures (Ungar, 2003 pg 912).
Despite the different views from my side and the opposition, we both agreed that the problem of overcrowding, that is most prevalent in Latin America prison can be temporarily solved by the construction of new jails. When new prisons are erected, the ratio of a cell to some prisons may be reduced hence resolving the problem of overcrowding and in a way helping reduce communicable diseases.
It was also agreed that it is the responsibility of prison authorities to see to it that inmates are treated according to the general rule of law concerning human rights. Also, the imprisonment period should prepare the inmates for life after they are released and not expose them to conditions that may harm their life forever. We also agreed that the right to health and equivalence of health care applies to all inmates and have a right to receive health attention and care just like those that are available on the outside the prison community. Prisoners should therefore be granted access to adequate and quality health care.
Gugelberger, Georg, and Michael Kearney. "Voices for the voiceless: Testimonial literature in Latin America." Latin American Perspectives 18.3 (1991): 3-14.
Hathazy, Paul, and Markus-Michael Muller. "The rebirth of the prison in Latin America: determinants, regimes and social effects." Crime, Law and Social Change (2015): 1-23.
Ungar, Mark. "Prisons and politics in contemporary Latin America." Human Rights Quarterly 25.4 (2003): 909-934.
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