The decision by some states to give convicts internet access wasn’t an arbitrary or haphazard decision. In a world where it seems as if life is changing exponentially faster, keeping inmates away from technology could cause society more harm than good. Yet out of all the US states, there are only four which allow some limited form of access to the internet. Some policy makers have argued that, much like shelter and food, the internet is a basic necessity and therefore a human right. This argument is open to debate and there are reasons that prisoners shouldn’t be deprived of internet access altogether.
In recent history, the case of Michael Santos stands out as an important marker in the argument for prisoners’ internet rights. After his 25 year sentence was served, he added his voice to the debate from his first-hand experience as a prisoner. Without internet access, prisoners live in a very real sense of isolation from the real world. This strongly disrupts their chances of true rehabilitation after release. They are also cut off from conversations within and surrounding technological awareness. This in turn means they have difficulties integrating back into the world.
Additionally, a lack of contact with the outside world allows for troubling rates of prisoner abuse to go unchecked. Santos recalls shocking cases of violence against prisoners by prison guards who knew the incidents would go unreported. The denial of human rights is a core issue in the argument for internet access for inmates. There have been around 2.2 million reported cases of prisoner abuse, and as many of half of the sexual abuse claims have implicated guards and not inmates as most people would think.
All in all, whether internet access should be considered a fundamental human right is still a controversial subject. That’s to be expected. A more interesting question is: “Could allowing internet access help to reduce the ‘revolving door’ problem?” Recidivism is a legitimate problem which impacts everyone. Increasing crime rates and prison populations are a strain on the nation’s taxpayers. By accessing information and technology, prisoners are likely to have a better chance at reintegration.
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