Mounting Issues Show Increasing Need for Prison Reform
People incarcerated in prisons do not have full constitutional rights, but they are protected by the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. They also have rights to speech and religion, to the extent these rights do not interfere with their status as inmates.
There are well over 2 million Americans currently living behind bars in the United States. And, increasingly, prisons have been beset by troubling issues like overcrowding, deficient health care, racial unrest, gang activity and assaults. Many advocates are calling for substantial prison reform.
In the New York area, problems concerning prison – and the need for serious change – have been very much in the news. Violence and chaos on New York City’s Rikers Island have been grabbing headlines throughout 2021. More than a year after COVID-19 sickened thousands of inmates in New York City’s jails the Department of Correction has been in a state of perpetual crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.
In New Jersey, the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women has been in and out of the news. Most recently, just months after a scandal led Governor Murphy to promise he would implement major reforms and ultimately close the facility, a corrections officer at the prison was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting an inmate in September.