Causes of Prison Riots
Prison riots occur when prisoners rebel against the prison administration. In some extreme cases these riots may result in the death of either prisoners or prison warden as the latter tries to control the former. Whenever a riot occurs in the outside world, police have a rough time controlling it mainly because there are some individual rioters that are specifically out to cause damage and loot. The situation becomes worse in a prison situation considering that a majority of the rioters are people with a criminal record. Simply put, prison riots are not a good thing and every prison administration should do its best to ensure that they don’t occur in their institutions. The first step in preventing these riots is to identify the causes of these riots.
The common belief is that prison riots are mainly caused by prison gangs that are out to settle scores. The other common belief is that at time there are grudges between the prisoners and the wardens and hence the riot to settle these hard feelings. However, there are other reasons that lead to prison riots that many prison authorities do not want to consider. Some of these reasons include when one prisoner steals another’s food. Also when the prisoners are denied access to facilities they are entitled to such as watching television during the stipulated hours. Loss of basic amenities has also been identified as a reason why some prisoners end up rioting. Most interesting of all is that in August most prisoners start random riots; according to Dotson and Williams (2004), “this has been claimed to be as a result of the hot summer sun” (p. 97).
After identifying the reasons above, prison authorities have a responsibility of ensuring that riots are not caused by the reasons above. One way of doing this is by having regular open-mike session between the prisoners and a senior prison administrator. This forum will allow most of the problems to be aired peacefully before they escalate to be full blown riots. The administrator present should assure the prisoners that their statements will be treated in full secrecy and they won’t be victimized for whatever they say. Also, the prison administrator should take this opportunity to educate the prisoners that violence never solves anything; but rather it increases the problems at hand.
Methods of Controlling Prison Overcrowding
Prison overcrowding occurs when a correctional facility has more prisoners than it was designed to hold. Prison overcrowding has been identified as a major problem not only in correctional facilities in the United States but in most countries across the world. Based on the fact that more people continue to be convicted faster than they are released from prisons, it is necessary to have a plan to cut down the population in correctional facilities. One way of reducing overcrowding in prisons is by finding an alternative to imprisonment. The justice system should come up with another form of punishing people who break the law rather than taking them to prison. One way of doing this is by putting minor offenders under the watch of probation officers rather than sending them to prison. Also such offenders can be committed to community service and restricted from travelling out of a certain area; this would act as an alternative to imprisonment. According to Useem and Morrison (2008), “finding an alternative to imprisonment is also the most viable option since other options such as expanding correctional facilities have been identified costly and only solving the problem for a moment- before new facilities become overcrowded again” (p. 41).
Safety and Security Needs of Special Prison Populations
Special prison populations include those prisons that require extra care during their incarceration. These include the mentally handicapped, the elderly, and those that have terminal illnesses such as HIV/AID. These groups of people require special attention and care while in prison despite the fact that they were put there to punish them for breaking the law. According to Beth (2010), “due to their physical or mental condition, special population prisoners are in most cases not able to defend themselves from issues such as harassment and molestation by other prisoners” (p. 112).
Some of the safety and security needs of special prisoners are that they require being protected form sexual abuse. The fact that most of the conditions these prisoners are in makes them weaker both physically and emotionally puts them at risk of being taken advantage of by other prisoners. Also, these special prisoners need extra security as in most cases they cannot defend themselves when attacked by other prisoners.
Also, these prisoners require to be kept safe from elements such as cold. Prison administrations should be aware of these special needs and at all conditions avoid treating these special prisoners as other prisoners. It is however important to note that this special treatment should be well defined and explained to other prisoners as they might take it that these special prisoners are being favored. This may then lead to the special population prisoners being hated and mistreated by other prisoners.
Useem, B. & Morrison, P. (2008). Prison State: The Challenge of Mass Incarceration. London:
Cambridge University Press.
Dotson, L. & Williams, G. (2004). Siege in Lucasville: An Insider’s Account and Critical Review
of Ohio’s Worst Prison Riot. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Beth, E. (2010). American Prison Reform in the Progressive Era: Crime, Class, and the State,
1875-1935. New York: Routledge.