On SAGE Insight: The Meaning of Ending Life in Prison

Special Section: End of Life in Correctional Settings in France, Switzerland, UK, and the United States

From Journal of Correctional Health Care

The ending of life in custody should be controversial. Deaths in prison raise issues of accountability, legitimacy, and quality of life as well as questions about the quality of death (not only for those who die of natural causes in prison as a result of their age or sentence). Considerable policy development is under way in this field, as the prison population ages. There are many ways that life can end in prison. This article takes suicides, murder, and the whole life sentence as three forms of unnatural death that illustrate important features of the prison experience and that take on a special meaning in this environment.

One of the key themes to arise from this account is the tendency of prisons to lose sight of prisoners as people. Forcing prisoners to live without hope, creating a climate in which death is preferable to life, and organizing prisons with an expectation of death take us far away from the principles of legitimate imprisonment. We should remember in our deliberations that “the treatment of prisoners and conditions in prison reflect the moral health of a nation.”


Abstract

There are many ways that life can end in prison. This article takes suicides, murder, and the whole life sentence as three forms of unnatural death that illustrate important features of the prison experience and that take on a special meaning in this environment. These forms of death in custody challenge the “legitimate penological purposes of imprisonment.” Reflections on the importance of hope and dignity in prison are informed by this account.

Read this article for free

Article details
The Meaning of Ending Life in Prison
Alison Journal of Correctional Health Care
2017, Vol. 23(1)
DOI: 10.1177/1078345816685070

     
This entry was posted in Criminology & Criminal Justice, Health, SAGE Insight and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply