Prisoners' Rights: Principles and Practice

Prisoners' Rights: Principles and Practice

Prisoners' Rights: Principles and Practice

Prisoners' Rights: Principles and Practice


Prisoners' Rights: Principles and Practiceconsiders prisoners' rights from socio-legal and philosophical perspectives, and assesses the advantages and problems of a rights-based approach to imprisonment. At a time of record levels of imprisonment and projected future expansion of the prison population, this work is timely.

The discussion in this book is not confined to a formal legal analysis, although it does include discussion of the developing jurisprudence on prisoners' rights. It offers a socio-legal rather than a purely black letter approach, and focuses on the experience of imprisonment. It draws on perspectives from a range of disciplines to illuminate how prisoners' rights operate in practice. The text also contributes to debates on imprisonment and citizenship, the treatment of women prisoners, and social exclusion.

This book will be of interest to both undergraduate and postgraduate students of penology and criminal justice, as well as professionals working within the penal system.


This book examines the role of prisoners’ rights in moving convicted prisoners from a state of social and civil death towards a recognition of their citizenship grounded in social inclusion. It argues that the notion of citizenship can be reconstructed to include prisoners and that a rights-based approach is crucial in moving the prisoner from the status of a non-person, who is socially dead, towards citizenship. Only such a reconstruction will lead to substantial improvements in the treatment of prisoners and to the raising of standards in prison while alternative methods, including new managerialist strategies, have been less effective in achieving significant improvements.

Reference will be made to the treatment of prisoners in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as these states, despite their differing histories, cultures and social contexts, face similar political problems in maintaining integration and stability in the face of social fragmentation. While there are similarities between political processes in both the USA and the UK, we also find a ‘time lag’, as some of the problems they have experienced of prison expansion and increased punitiveness and prison disorder, occurred here later. The development of the courts’ treatment of rights claims will be considered in Chapter 2. The United States is also of interest because it is more extreme than the UK in the level of incarceration and the austerity of its regimes. In the USA there has been a substantial increase in the prison population so that it is eight times higher than in 1970. By December 2008 the prison population exceeded 2.3 million compared to 1.2 million in 1990, but it fell slightly to just over 2.2 million by June 2009 (ICPS 2010). This situation has been described as ‘mass imprisonment’ and there are also large numbers are on parole and probation. This expansion reflects changes in public attitudes, the importance of crime and punishment as a political issue and anation>


Serial killer: this term is new. It dates from the end of the 1970s, and is American, which stands to reason given that the United States has proven to be, by far, the country where serial killers are most prolific. Its origin is contested (between two Roberts: Ressler, an FBI agent, and Keppel, a medical doctor). It was introduced into language in the context of the considerable media attention and popular interest provoked by the crimes of Ted Bundy.

He was a smooth talker with charming manners and it is said that he was capable of changing physiognomy like a chameleon. He held degrees in psychology and law, probably started killing at 14 and was arrested at 29. He confessed to 30 victims: all were women, all were white, all middle class, most between 15 and 20 years old, high-school girls in many cases, with long dark hair. He lay for hours beside their corpses, applied makeup to their faces when he had not chopped off their heads and engaged in sexual intercourse with them until they decomposed.

An immense literature has since been devoted to serial killers, in which morbid interest has its share, but also the public interest: what relevant traits should be considered when trying to hone in on the identity of an UNSUB (unknown subject of an investigation)? What indicators show that isolated crimes belong to an ongoing series? How do we detect a serial killer before he commits the act? Can one predict that a child will be a serial killer? These are a few of the questions that scientific research has been led to ask over the past decade or so. The experts attempting to answer these questions are law enforcement officers and mental health professionals. More recently, biochemistry, neuroscience and magnetic resonance imaging . . .

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