A comparison of the abuse of prisoners in the North American Prison System and the novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
A prison is an institution for the confinement of persons convicted of criminal offenses. Nelson Mandela once said “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” The prison system has been a way to keep violent criminals away from society and should also help to reform convicts and enable them to reintegrate into society. It may be true that prisons exist for punishment, but the problem is that it is not a place for rehabilitation. Indeed, many published articles claim that in North American Prison Systems (NAPS), the inmates’ human rights are being violated. This is reflected in Stephen King’s book Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, in which Andy, the protagonist, struggles for survival in prison until his eventual escape back to the outside world. The novel provides an accurate representation of the many forms of abuse present in NAPS such as violence, rape and solitary confinement at the hands of other inmates and prison guards.
First of all, violence is illustrated in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. For instance, when the work crew is taken to tar the roof of the prison’s factory, they had to “move fast enough to suit the guard, or else he’d clout them with his stick.” (King 42) Additionally, one night, the chief guard, Byron Hadley, savagely beats a newly arrived inmate because of his crying and hysterics. The violence shown in the beginning of the novel breaches article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. As a result, the inmate later dies in the infirmary because the prison doctor had left for the night. As it can be seen, the guards are not doing their jobs. The narrator, Red, proves this fact by stating: “During the reign of Greg Stammas, the beds in the infirmary and the cells in the solitary were always full.” (King 53) This proves the fact that the guards are not protecting the inmates from other inmates. Moreover, Red has known men from prison who have lost their eyes, toes, fingers, and the tip of their penis. Therefore, in this prison, inmates are subjected to violent conditions that violate their human rights.
Not only is this abuse present in the novel, it can also be related to reality. For instance, guards may find themselves in situations where they need to use force, notably tear gas; pepper spray; guns and physical restraints to maintain order and to protect themselves from the most dangerous inmates. The most common type of abuse is committed by the officers towards inmates. This includes the needless beatings, hitting and kicking. According to data from the Bureau of Justice, the use of force increased by 37 % from 975 incidents (2008) to 1339 incidents (2012). Not to mention the increased use of tear gas and pepper spray to stop acts of violence. While the pepper spray more than doubled from 186 to 400 incidents, the use of tear gas tripled to 292 times from 96. (“Mistreatment”) This is mainly caused because many American Prisons are becoming overcrowded which can provoke riots and chaos. Violence in prison can lead to severe psychological suffering, depression, frustration and may cause lacerations, broken bones, internal injuries, brain or spinal cord damage or sadly death. Hence, the officials are treating the prisoners as if they were less human and undeserving of respect and dignity, a significant human rights violation.
Nonetheless, violence is not the only abuse inmates will suffer during their sentence; they have to deal with rape. Over the past decade, prison populations have increased. Despite having built new prisons all over North America to accommodate the offenders, “there is simply not enough places to house them” (King 41) In King’s novel, Andy Dufresne,…