Prisoner abuse

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Prisoner abuse is the mistreatment of persons while they are under arrest or incarcerated. Prisoner abuse can include physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, torture, or other acts such as refusal of essential medication.[1]

Physical abuse[edit]

Physical abuse of prisoners includes illicit beating and hitting of prisoners, unlawful corporal punishment, stress positions, and excessive or prolonged physical restraining.

According to the New York Times, along with physical abuse, prisoners are being thrown into jail for mental illnesses that they obtain and not being treated for them. This causes their issues to get worse and in some cases never get better. Also, relating to physical abuse the mentally ill can be thrown into restrained areas for a long amount of time because of their mental condition, this means that these mentally ill people do not have the resources to get better in the jail.

This is also caused by overpopulation in jails. Penal Reform International claims, that overcrowding in the main source of poor jail conditions globally. This caused overcrowding and understaffing: one of the reasons why there can sometimes be 2-3 people in the same jail cell for a long period of time. This causes a lack of privacy and because the jails are so overcrowded some minor cases are cut from the justice system altogether.

According to the Marshall Plan, there are also many gangs that are formed in different prisons which cause chaos and force the jail to go through many lockdowns which are a vulnerable time for the prison guards especially when they are understaffed. It also says that the prisoners and the prison guards have to be safe, which caused the guards to be defensive and sometimes abusive.

Psychological abuse[edit]

Psychological abuse of prisoners can include verbal abuse, sleep deprivation, white noise, pointless/absurd or humiliating instructions, recurrent exhaustive inspections and shakedowns, arbitrary strip searches, and denuding actions.

According to Reflexions, prison can alter people's bodily dimensions, their emotional wellbeing, and possibly change their perception for an extended amount of time. It also claims that not only does the prison environment make mental disorders worse, but it also may cause them. The type of prison environment can be cruel and if the prisoner does not have the mental, emotional, and physical willpower they will struggle very greatly.

White noise[edit]

The endless playing of random static (similar to that of unused TV frequencies) with no pattern; this can cause extreme discomfort and disorientation.

Verbal abuse[edit]

Prisoners may be subject to taunting, heckling, profanity, and malicious lies by prison authorities. Guards and other authorities may use verbal abuse as a means of frightening or demoralizing prisoners to make them more compliant, or simply out of sadism.

Enablement of sexual violence[edit]

Prisoners are sometimes intentionally housed with inmates known to have raped other prisoners, or protection from known rapists may be purposely withheld from the prisoners. These practices create a very high incidence of rape in US prisons, which was the topic of the 2001 report No Escape from Human Rights Watch.[2][3]

Sexual abuse[edit]

Sexual abuse is known to occur in facilities for both genders, however it is especially predominant with female prisoners. Common acts can include arbitrary and extensive strip searches as well as other forms of forced denudation beyond general necessity, excessive vaginal or rectal contraband searches or other internal checks including the oral cavity of a prisoner. In extreme cases even forced insertion of objects into the inmate's vagina or rectum and also forced sexual intercourse is known to occur mostly on female detainees.

Strip searches[edit]

The experience of forced strip searches can be experienced as a traumatic event similarly to that of rape especially by female prisoners, especially when combined with habitual body cavity searches. The prevalence of CCTV in modern correctional facilities and the generally indiscreet nature of strip searches, often with a number of prison guards observing, usually adds to the experienced humiliation. Strip searches are often arbitrarily used under various pretences, when the actual ambition is to assert control and predominance as well as to intimidate the subjected prison inmates.[4]


Forced enemas are commonly acknowledged as being uncomfortable and also degrading for the receiving person, especially when practiced in a prison environment designated by a stark imbalance in power. Such a treatment can also be registered as a form of physical abuse as well as sexual abuse, when practiced without consent or forcibly carried out against the will of the subjected prisoner. Physically invasive measures of this kind are often purposefully taken in order to demonstrate predominance and to assert "total control" over an incarcerated individual. By the application of a forced enema in a situation of incarceration one of the last remaining spheres of privacy as well as personal autonomy is stripped away from the prison inmate. As the prisoner's generally autonomous instances of bowel movement are hereby unnaturally taken out of his or her own decision-making and forcibly placed under the arbitration of prison authorities, "total control" over the inmate is implemented in a near finalizing manner. Therefore such a procedure can lead to experiences of emotional distress and psychological trauma for the defenceless detainee, which is typically desired by the authorities to undermine the prisoner's mental resilience.
As a physical consequence of this practice, anal fissures, chronic hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse can occur when administered excessively and without medical care. Forced enemas have evidentially been used for example at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp by the United States. In certain cases it was administered under the pretence to counter a prisoner's dehydration. Forms of medical justification were employed whenever enemas were in fact used as a coercive tool. Despite the pretext of medical need, it was later admitted in certain cases, that this was in fact untrue. The CIA administered enemas to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Mohammed al-Qahtani among others.[5][6]


Torture of prisoners includes any act, whether physical or psychological, which is deliberately done to inflict sensations of pain upon a person under the actor's custody or physical control. This form of prisoner abuse is usually exerted to extract information, but also as means of intimidation, attrition or punishment.

Enhanced interrogation[edit]

"Enhanced interrogation" is a euphemism for U.S. torture methods implemented in the War on Terror purportedly needed to extract information from detainees. Examples include use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, starvation, thirst, and sexual humiliation.[7]

Collective punishment[edit]

After a September 2020 incident inside the Scorpion Prison in the Tora Prison complex of Egypt, where four inmates and four officers died, the authorities opted to collectively punish all the 800-900 prisoners. They reconstructed all the cells into rooms of psychological torture, leaving no source of ventilation and electricity. The inmates were also strictly kept from communicating to the others.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prisoner Abuse Law & Legal Definition. USLegal. Retrieved from
  2. ^ "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons".
  3. ^ Goodmark, Leigh; Flores, Juanita; Goldscheid, Julie; Ritchie, Andrea; SpearIt (2015-07-09). "Plenary 2 -- Redefining Gender Violence -- Transcripts from Converge! Reimagining the Movement to End Gender Violence". Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. SSRN 2628984. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Standing Up Against Sexual Assault By the State". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2019-10-13.
  5. ^ Neil A. Lewis (2005-01-01). "Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo". Archives – 2005. The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  6. ^ "Rectal rehydration and waterboarding: the CIA torture report's grisliest findings". The Guardian. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  7. ^ Laughland, Oliver (2015-05-20). "How the CIA tortured its detainees". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-10-13.
  8. ^ "Egypt: Collective Punishment in Scorpion Prison". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 17 December 2020.

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