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Prisons in Florida and across U.S. host deplorable conditions

prisoners in a jail yardWhen individuals are convicted of criminal wrongdoing, they are often sentenced to serve lengths of imprisonment. This imprisonment may be used as a way to ensure public safety, to punish individuals for their actions or for both purposes. However, criminal law does hold that even while imprisoned, Americans retain many of their basic rights. Any treatment of prisoners and imprisonment conditions deemed to be cruel and unusual are illegal under the Constitution.

Unfortunately, unacceptable treatment of prisoners and deplorable imprisonment conditions do exist both in Florida and throughout the United States. Several suits have recently been filed to alter this reality and hold those responsible accountable. It may take time in order to achieve these goals and reform affected facilities, but such reform is absolutely necessary. When prisoners are mistreated, the integrity of the entire criminal justice system may be rightfully called into question.

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In May, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division released a report concerning a particular prison in Florida. In particular, the report detailed how the prison leadership "continue to subject prisoners to excessive risk of assault by other prisoners and to inadequate mental health care." In addition, earlier this month an influential court paved the way for Florida to privatize its prison healthcare system, which many believe will lead to even more deplorable conditions and prisoner care than is currently standard in many facilities.

These are just two examples of unacceptable prisoner treatment issues currently plaguing Florida's correctional system. Facilities and systems nationwide are currently under similar scrutiny for deplorable conditions and prisoner mistreatment. It is critical that accused persons be able to fight for their rights in court and live healthy lives after release. But prisoners are among our nation's most vulnerable populations. Focusing on their rights and treatment may be exactly what is necessary in order to bolster the integrity of the nation's criminal justice system immediately.

Source: The Atlantic, "One of the Darkest Periods in the History of American Prisons," Andrew Cohen, June 9, 2013

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