For the past week, cold temperatures, and even colder winds, have been sweeping across the country, and while the Midwest may have gotten the worst of the cold, there have been even bigger problems in other parts of the country as a result.
While the student body at Illinois State University was enjoying two extra days to catch up on homework and sleep from the comfort and warmth of their homes, inmates at a New York prison were sitting in their cells without any heat. CNN reported that David Patton, the director of Federal Defenders of New York and a representative for the union representing the facility’s workers said “Lighting is down. No light in the cells. All locked down since Thursday night. That’s going on for at least 36 hours. When the sun goes down it’s pitch dark. Inmates who have medical conditions can’t read the instructions on the medications.”
Temperatures in some parts of the prison were reported as low as 49 degrees.
While many have shown concern over the prison staff and workers who have had to wear hats, gloves and coats during these chilly conditions, it is equally important to remember those incarcerated.
People have started to organize to protest these inhumane conditions, with rapper Cardi B being one of the latest high profile voices to join the cause. She posted her support on Instagram Saturday night with the hashtag “OccupyForHumanity. Incarcerated Individuals Have Rights Too!”
This issue of human rights for those behind bars is often a hot topic when it comes to prison reform, but it is, in fact, a right guaranteed to us as American citizens.
“It is unacceptable, illegal and inhumane to detain people without basic amenities, access to counsel or medical care,” New York Attorney General Letitia A. James said. “The reported conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center are appalling. Prisoners and detainees have rights and those rights must be enforced. My office is in touch with legal service providers and inmates’ attorneys, and closely monitoring this deeply disturbing situation.”
United States prison reform has been a serious issue for some time now, with this latest injustice only adding to the list of those that many prisoners face. The bottom line is, no human person should ever be treated like an animal. The true purpose of the prison system is to one day reintegrate those who have made past mistakes into society, where they can contribute as fully functioning members.
Moreover, we need to be able to hold the government and the law to the standard that is set for us as American citizens. A human rights issue about children, the sick or the incarcerated is still a human rights issue, no matter how you look at it. We should not be allowing the people in power to abuse citizens that they deem as lesser when they have promised us that it is within our rights to expect better.