UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prisoners : rights, rhetoric and reality Ghedia, Jayshree


Prisoners rights has become an issue of ever increasing visibility since the middle of the last century. Concern for the rights of those incarcerated within our prisons has intensified with the rise of civil liberties in both Canada and England. Both countries have introduced measures which purport to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms to their citizens, measures which it would be reasonable to assume, would further the advance of prisoners rights. And yet, progress remains decidedly sluggish. This thesis traces the evolution of rights philosophy, then considers the parallel developments of prisoners rights, penal philosophy and civil liberties and seeks to explain why the potential for advancement has not been fully realized. Prisoners are incarcerated having been found guilty of the most grave of criminal offences and as a consequence, it is perhaps a basic instinct which determines that retribution, and only retribution is warranted in such circumstances. In the age of human rights however, there is the wider picture to consider. This is an age where compassion, mercy and benevolence are to triumph over barbarism, destruction and senseless harm. The conflict between these competing perspectives cannot be dealt with merely by enacting legislation which compels the judiciary to consider claims in a different light, and can only be resolved through a revolution beginning with definitive stance in judicial treatment of prisoner right claims which embraces the philosophy of international human rights provisions. In order to be effective, this must be assisted by bringing about changes within the prison system itself which empower the prisoner and seek to eliminate the feelings of embitterment and resentment which commonly prevail amongst prisoners. The introduction of such measures will only be acceptable if society itself recognizes that imprisonment is transitory and that those who we incarcerate within the walls of our prison, will soon be among us.

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