Inhumane treatment led the Supreme Court to say in 2011 that the state of California’s jails was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.” Indeed, the conditions in America’s prisons are an affront to everything we should stand for as a free nation. Yet, those conditions go overlooked, and incarcerated people pay the cost with their lives.
How Did We Get Here?
In the 1990s, the prison population saw the effects of “tough-on-crime” laws passed over the previous decade. The numbers of incarcerated people skyrocketed, and, today, the US has the largest prison population in the world and the highest incarceration rate per capita.
Population increases mean overcrowding, which in turn leads to an increase in violence, neglect, and gross mistreatment. Simultaneously, government oversight of prisons eroded with the growth of the private prison industry. Prisons, backed by insurance companies with teams of lawyers, made it harder for people to seek justice and retribution for ill treatment.
What Happens in Prisons Today?
The prevalence of rape in prisons has become so accepted that it’s nothing more than a punchline on a sitcom. Assault, too, seems to be an expected part of entering the prison system. Corrections officers are tasked with ensuring the basic safety of people, but understaffing and blatant misconduct allows violence to proliferate.
When we allow prisoners to be raped, assaulted, stabbed, coerced, and killed, it makes a strong statement about who we are as a society and how we conceive of basic human rights.
Lack of Medical and Mental Health Care
As the prison population escalated, so did the incidence of mental illness. According to Mental Health America, 1.2 million incarcerated individuals have a mental illness. Prison officials are not trained mental health care practitioners, and often don’t know how to deal with erratic behavior. Their solution is solitary confinement and physical force, which can exacerbate mental health issues. People in solitary confinement make up half of all suicides in prison.
Corruption and Abuse
When abuse of power starts at the top, it’s hard to blame the problem on “a few bad apples.” Department of Justice investigations into some state departments of corrections found that leadership was aware of the problems yet did nothing to change them.
The growth of the private prison industry creates environments with little government oversight. The private prison industry works hard to block meaningful reform and policy changes to maintain its prison capacity and profits.
How You Can Help
The Fair Fight Initiative operates advocacy and awareness campaigns to draw attention to violence, abuse, and mistreatment in the prison system. They provide financial support to people who seek justice for inhumane and unconstitutional treatment in prison.
By donating to Fair Fight Initiative, you can help us fight for a prison system that lives up to our ideals as a free and just society.
Approved cases will be documented and litigated with funds generated by our nonprofit. Fair Fight Initiative receives many applications, and responses may take many weeks.