Chris Moerdyk

Are prisons for criminals or VIPs?

2013-04-22 09:35

Chris Moerdyk

A member of my family spent many years of his life in the service of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and he told me that the most dangerous time for any prison warder was two weeks before a prisoner was to be discharged.

What often happened was that the prisoner would either assault a fellow prisoner or just to be on the safe side, assault a warder to make absolutely sure that he would stay in prison and not be released.

The reason was that prisoners in California were actually so comfortable in jail that they panicked at the thought of having to go out into the world and fend for themselves.

In short, prisoners in California have more rights than ordinary law-abiding citizens. They don't have to worry about a roof over their heads or getting three meals a day, not to mention access to gyms, television and so forth.

I thought about this when I read in the papers a few days ago about the shindig in a KwaZulu-Natal prison when the authorities decided to give long-haired prisoners a haircut because of the danger of drugs and weapons being hidden in long hair.

Fewer rights

Naturally, the prisoners resisted claiming that their hair was long for religious reasons and that cutting it would be in contravention of their rights.

Now, I will probably get lambasted by all manner of liberal goody-two-shoes and representatives of prisoner representative bodies, but I have to say that surely it makes complete and utter logical sense that when you are found guilty if a crime against society and sentenced to a term of imprisonment that you should have fewer rights and not more?

I was under the impression that prison was supposed to be a punishment?

Sure, it goes without saying that prisoners should be treated humanely and that civilisation has moved on from beatings and torture but really, pampering is hardly punishment.

There were quotes from a number of prisoners who were forced to have their heads shaved that losing their long hair would be tantamount to a denial of their faith.

Well, for crying out loud, they are in prison because they were found guilty of committing a crime and if committing a crime is not as denial of one's religion then I don't know what is.

Two sides to the story

Of course, the prison authorities in question were wrong to force other prisoners to do the haircuts and yes, they were wrong to used excessive force.

But, while we decry the force used, I rather suspect that there are two sides to this story. Like how do you cut someone's hair when they are forcibly resisting?

I just get the feeling that the reason countries like South Africa, the USA and the UK are losing their wars against crime is because they have become nanny states which have gone completely overboard in protecting human rights to the point where the line between protection of human rights and pampering nannyism has long been crossed.

The tragedy of course, is when these countries decide to try and correct the situation, the pendulum will unfortunately swing the other way.

History has proved it with cycles of conservatism, liberalism and then militarism. 

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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