Unethical and ethical issues in the prison system

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Every society usually has criminals or people who go against set rules and regulations. Prisons are mostly put in place so that such people can be confined therein for various reasons.

This includes ensuring that inmates get corrected and also to protect the public from their crime. Prisons have been there since time in history. They usually have measures such as high ramparts, dogs and maximum security to prevent inmates from escaping.

Prison systems have continued to undergo transformation in diverse ways. The operation of prison systems in various nations is usually known to differ in diverse ways. There are various ethical and unethical issues that can be traced in prison systems. This paper looks at these issues in depth. (Akers, 2000)

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Unethical issues

An analysis of prison systems shows that there are myriad unethical issues that are taking place therein. These issues can be noted among prison warders, prisoners and even the auxiliary staff working in the prisons. It is imperative to look at these issues so that corrective measures can be taken by relevant authorities. (Carroll, 2003)


This is one of the unethical practices that are evident in the prison systems. Prisons are usually known to confine offenders in one place. They are never allowed to visit their spouses or families. This leads to a situation where conjugal rights of prisoners are not met. Research shows that inmates resort to homosexuality within the prisons. This is not a healthy practice as some of them after leaving prison continue with the vice despite having wives.

Through this, many marriages of ex-prisoners are easily broken. It is a very unethical practice since it does not result in a healthy society. Surprisingly, the issue of homosexuality in prisons has existed for quite a long time. Relevant authorities seem unconcerned about this issue yet it plays a great role in eroding moral standards within the society.

Furthermore, cases of homosexuality are usually noted be occurring even between prisoners and prison warders. This puts a question mark on the role of prisons in instilling high moral values among offenders in the society. (Carroll, 2003)


This is also another unethical practice within the prison system. Various researchers assert that rape cases in prisons continue to escalate year after year. People with the offense of rape are usually allowed to mingle with the other prisoners. Women are the worst hit in this case. Many women prisoners are usually raped but never dare to report to the authorities due to fear.

Some men are usually raped by their fellow men. The situation is usually bad for children staying with their mothers in prison. Most of the children are usually born within the prisons as their mothers serve their sentence.

Rape is highly evident as many inmates seek medical attention when their private parts are damaged due to the force inflicted during the act. The challenge with rape cases in prisons is that the perpetrators are never mentioned. The affected parties fear since they are usually forewarned by the rapists on dire repercussions in case they spill the beans. (Paula, 2004)

The raped prisoners stay with the pain and never talk to anyone. In the long run, they end up carrying out the same act on other prisoners as a revenge mission. Sometimes they as infected with HIV Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases through rape.

This is mostly carried out on younger prisoners who have not stayed within prison premises for a long time. The cycle then continues; this becomes the order of the day. This is quite unethical. (Paula, 2004)

Mistreatment of prisoners’ children

Some women are usually put in prison when they have very small babies that cannot be left at home. Sometimes the women never have someone who can take care of these small children. They end up going to prison with their children. Some of them deliver their children while in prison.

Research shows that these children usually go through a lot of mistreatment as if they are the ones who committed the crime. The children are usually made to stay in confinement with their mothers. They are not given adequate bedding and sleep on a cold floor in the night. (Sissela, 1995)

The children are never provided with adequate food or balanced diet that is necessary for their growth. This is quite unethical as these children are innocent and do not deserve such mistreatment. Sometimes the children are verbally abused by prison authorities. They are usually told that they are unruly as their mothers or parents. Some of these children go through sexual abuse while in prison premises. (Paula, 2004)

Prison environment is not the best for growing up children as they watch their mothers being mistreated, whipped and verbally abused. They grow up in fear; this affects their self esteem in the long run. Older children are usually made to do tough chores as if they were criminals. Sometimes the children are usually confined indoors; this leads to emotional abuse. This is an unethical practice that needs to be corrected by relevant authorities. (Paula, 2004)

Drug trafficking and abuse

It is usually expected that prisons play a great role in changing offenders’ character; this may still be a mirage. Drug trafficking is mostly known to be thriving within prison systems. In this case, prison warders and authorities are usually noted to be actively involved in the business.

In some nations, prison warders assert that poor payment stir them to be involved in such practices. This does not justify the practice at all. Prisoners are usually known to be actively involved in drug trafficking practices. They link up with other criminals who are usually not in prisons to carry out the practice.

Further analysis shows that some prisoners jailed for other offenses start drug trafficking while in prison. This puts question marks on the role of prisons in shaping the character of offenders. Furthermore, many prisoners still abuse drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. The drugs, they say, are readily available to them.

They claim that the drugs help them to forget their problems. This practice is mostly known among prison warders since most of them are suppliers. They only ensure that high-ranking authorities that do not condone corruption do not get to know about the practice. This practice within prison system is quite unethical. (Akers, 2000)

Calls of nature

Analysis of prisons across the globe shows that some of them have unethical practices. One such practice relates to calls of nature for prisoners. It is clear that every human being has to attend to the call of nature. In some prison systems, prisoners are not provided for toilets and latrines.

Buckets are usually put in every cell for inmates to use like toilets. This is bearing in mind that the cells are normally crowded. It is usually expected that any person who wishes to relieve himself will use the bucket in the presence of the other prisoners in the cell.

There is no privacy when attending the call of nature. The human waste releases awful smell leading to sicknesses among prisoners. This is a very unethical act no matter the crime one has committed. It infringes against the right to privacy when attending call of nature. Some of the rooms are usually littered with human waste making life within the cells unbearable.

Death penalty

This is also a practice that is common in many prison systems across the globe. Some countries have eliminated the death penalty from their prison system. Death penalty is common for capital offenders such as criminals of robbery with violence and murder among other charges. There are nations where capital offenders are usually hanged.

Death sentence is not ethical. No one has the right to take another person’s life no matter the committed offense. People always need to be given a second chance in life rather than taking away their lives. Some of these people are fathers and mothers that have children looking up to them as parents even if they are criminals. Everyone has the right to life whether he is a criminal or not.

If people can be corrected by death, then in the long run there might be no more people in the society. Research shows that some of the people who go through may be innocent hence killing people who are not criminals. Death penalty in the prison system is quite unethical and should be stopped.

Emotional and physical abuse

Emotional and physical abuses are usually noted to be quite rampant in prisons. Physical abuse sometimes results in severe health repercussions throughout affected prisoners’ lives. Some prisoners suffer kidney problems due to physical abuse while in prison. Other physical injuries make prisoners depend on drugs for the rest of their lives. Some injuries make it hard for affected prisoners to lead normal lives where they can do physical work. This is not ethical at all. (Sissela, 1995)

There are some nations where men are usually hit in their private parts damaging the organs. This leads to a situation where they may never sire any children. This is an act that is highly condemned by governmental and non governmental organizations. These organizations deal with human rights.

Extreme isolation of prisoners is emotional abuse. This leads to depression and suicide in affected parties. Abusive language is common in most prison systems. This leads to low-self esteem among prisoners. As prisoners leave prison grounds, some of them adopt an abusive language towards their friends and family. (Akers, 2000)

Escape from prisons

This has become very common in the prison system all over the world. This tends to happen even in situations where the prisons are usually given maximum security. Analysis shows that prison warders collude with prisoners in implementing the escapes. Prison warders are usually paid money by prisoners.

The prisoners are then allowed to escape. Prison warders usually pretend that they were not aware of the escape. Sometimes bribes are even given to higher authorities in prisons. This is quite unethical since in the long- run, crime may never be minimized or eliminated from the society. (Garland, 2002)

Selling of ammunitions

The trade in ammunitions is quite rampant in prisons. This is usually carried out by both the prisoners and prison authorities. Prisoners are mostly known to link up with other criminals who are not in jail in the selling of ammunitions. To make matters worse, this trade is usually facilitated by prison authorities.

This beats the logic since prisons are mostly supposed to be a place where offenders go through correction. Corruption is mostly on the increase in prison systems as prison authorities supply and procure ammunitions. This is usually an unethical practice that enhances crime instead of alleviating. (Garland, 2002)

Ethical issues

Training in practical skills

Despite the unethical issues mentioned above, there are also ethical practices evident in prison systems. One of the ethical issues notable in prison systems is the training of prisoners with practical skills. This includes skills such as tailoring, art, carpentry and masonry among others. Prisoners who are usually equipped with such essential skills always use them later on in life. They find more meaning to life since such skills helps them to start- income generating projects once they leave prison.

Research shows that, through such training, prisons have been producing quality products such as designer outfits and even quality furniture. The training project also tends to help prisoners market the products while still in prison and even after they leave prison. Most offenders assert that lack of income leads them to crime.

This venture is usually imperative as it solves this problem by helping prisoners gain skills that help them start income generating projects. This means that they do not resort to crime anymore. This means that moral standards of the society. (Sissela, 1995)

Allowing spouses to visit prisoners often

Changes have been taking place in the prison system across the globe. One factor that usually has adverse effects on prisoners is the denial of conjugal rights. This leads to homosexuality and rape cases.

Authorities in most prison systems usually arrange spouse visits for prisoners. Arrangements are usually put in place such that prisoners have rooms for conjugal rights whenever their spouses visit. This is mostly known to lead to improved moral standards for prisoners.

This reduces rape and homosexuality cases within prisons. As spouses and family members visit prisons, they give prisoners moral support. This makes offenders desire to join their families. Prison authorities also arrange for recreational activities for families to enjoy themselves as they interact with their loved ones in prison. This includes video watching and dances among other activities. (Garland, 2002)

Religious teachings

This is one of the ethical activities that are common in many prison systems across the globe. Prisoners are mostly taught the word of God that is quite imperative in shaping their character. Research has shown that, through these teachings, some of them change their lifestyle and have a very close relationship with their creator.

This venture is mostly supported by governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Some of them usually assert that they got their spiritual calling while in prison. They even start teaching their fellow inmates on religious doctrine.

These teachings help prisoners to know the expectation of their maker and the repercussions of disobeying God. This teaches them on how they should live with other people well without hurting them in any way. They learn the advantages of high moral standards and blessings that accompany such a choice. This easily leads to reformed people and a society with high moral standards. (Albrecht, 1977)


Education is also another ethical thing that can be noted in prison systems that play a great role in improving the lives of prisoners. Some prisoners are usually jailed when they do not have any education. Some of them assert that the lack of education influences them to join crime.

Many prison systems across the globe have incorporated education to give prisoners a second chance to pursue their education. Prisoners are usually given a chance to study while serving their term. They are usually encouraged to pursue education that is necessary for their success after their prison life. (Carroll, 2003)

Many enroll for elementary lessons, high school and college lessons in prison. This is usually offered free of charge hence motivates many prisoners to enroll. They pursue elementary, high school and even higher education in prison. This is mostly an extremely ethical practice in prison systems.

It helps in determining the future of ex-prisoners. The program is usually tailored in such a way that, after gaining professional skills, they are usually helped to get employment. This usually helps offenders to have a brighter future and leave the life of crime altogether. (Carroll, 2003)


There are unethical and ethical practices that can be noted in prison systems. Some ethical practices include allowing spouses to visit inmates often and providence of education.

Prisoners are also given training in practical skills such as carpentry and given religious teachings that transform their lives. Unethical practices in prison include rape, homosexuality, emotional and physical abuse, death penalty and escapes from prisons among other issues. These issues need to be corrected if these facilities are to improve the lives of prisoners.


Albrecht, S. (1977): Re-moralization process, Application in relation to attitude

Performance; Scientific Study Journal, 16, 263-274

Akers, R. (2000): Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and Application. 3rd edition; Los Angeles: Roxbury Press

Carroll, A. (2003): Business and society ethics and stakeholder management (5th Ed.);

South-Western Publishing Co; Cincinnati Ohio

Garland, D. (2002): Of Crimes and Criminals, in Maguire and Robert Rainer: The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 3rd edition; U.K; Oxford University Press

Paula C. (2004): Inner life: African- American women in- Prison’s voices, New York; University Press

Sissela, B. (1995): Common Values; Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press

Categories: Management


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