Penal harm, an intentionally harsher form of the "deprivation of liberty", is the belief that during custodial sentences (mainly in prison or reformatory), inmates should endure additional pain and suffering, not just having their basic rights taken away, to make the punishment deliberately harder.
While this improves the desirable deterrent effect of detention, and fits the idea of retribution, its perception as cruelty rather than justice may endanger both internal security and prospects for rehabilitation and goes against the humane ideal of most human rights advocates, possibly qualifying legally as inhumane punishment, an infringement on human rights under the UN rules.
Although internal punishments, imposed by prison authorities, are not strictly penal harm as such, since they are not independent from the convict's behavior, arbitrary application and choice of cruel modes, including corporal punishment (in South East Asian countries this can include the dreaded Rattan caning), perfectly fit the rationale.
Traditional forms include
- hard labor
- rationed, unappetizing or even unhealthy food
- various discomforts such as poor hygiene, small and overcrowded cells, hard bunks, insufficient protection against cold
- long isolation, even in a dark 'hole'
- sleep deprivation
- humiliating procedures such as strip searches
- prison rape
- denial of visits, correspondence and recreation.
It must be pointed out that many of the physical forms can also arise accidentally, as a result of understaffing, insufficient budget, or even legal considerations (such as delays deemed necessary for appeal procedures).
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- Vaughn, MS (2013-03-25). "Penal harm medicine: state tort remedies for delaying and denying health care to prisoners". Crime Law Soc Change. 31: 273–302. PMID 16506338.
- "NCJRS Abstract - National Criminal Justice Reference Service". Ncjrs.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- Maeve, Katherine M., and Michael S. Vaughn. "Nursing with prisoners: The practice of caring, forensic nursing or penal harm nursing?." Advances in Nursing Science 24.2 (2001): 47-64.
- Vaughn, Michael S.; Smith, Linda G. (1999). "Practicing penal harm medicine in the United States: Prisoners' voices from jail". Justice Quarterly. 16 (1): 175–231. doi:10.1080/07418829900094101.
- Michael Welch (8 June 2004). Ironies of Imprisonment. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4522-3739-8.