The Ethics of Incarceration

My brief investigation (Injustice in Justice) into the US prison system for last week’s blog inspired me to explore the ethical issues of incarceration more in-depth. Upon further research via Google Scholar and WorldCat, I found seemingly endless resources regarding inmate rights, prison education, criminal justice policies, state punishment, and private prison institutions. Most prisons are subject to inadequate funding and sky-high operating costs, leading to poor quality facilities, low wages, and lack of help programs. By breaking the law, imprisoned individuals have sacrificed many of their privileges as US citizens. But what about their basic rights as human beings? What about the people they leave behind on the outside? I have listed some of the topics I am interested in exploring below…

  • Should prisons increase wages for full- and part-time workers? Should the government increase funding for state and federal prisons?
  • Should prisoners receive equal access to education and rehabilitation programs?
  • Should the government be responsible for providing financial and/or social aid to families of current prisoners?
  • The prison system only seems to further perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty, illegal behavior, and incarceration. Are there any measures being taken to end this? If not, how can government or prison institutions better prepare inmates for normal life?
  • What are the similarities and differences between prisons and traditional corporations? Who/what are the stakeholders for a prison?
  • What is a consequentialist analysis of this situation?

The sources below are mostly scholarly articles analyzing various justice issues and their impact on private prison institutions, local communities, and state and federal governments from contrasting perspectives.

Bulow, William. “The Harms Beyond Imprisonment: Do We Have Special Moral Obligations Towards the Families and Children of Prisoners?” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17.4 (2014): 775-89. Springer. Springer Science Business Media, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

D’Amico, Daniel J. “The Business Ethics of Incarceration: The Moral Implications of Treating Prisons Like Businesses.” Reason Papers 31.Fall (2009): 125-47. Prison Legal News. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

Dolovich, Sharon. “State Punishment and Private Prisons.” Duke Law Journal 55.3 (2005): 437-546. JSTOR. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

Duff, Antony. Punishment, Communication, and Community. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Google Books. Google. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

Duguid, Stephen. “Selective Ethics and Integrity: Moral Development and Prison Education.” Journal of Correctional Education 37.2 (1986): 60-64. JSTOR. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

Malamud-Goti, Jaime. “Transitional Governments in the Breach: Why Punish State Criminals?” Human Rights Quarterly 12.1 (1990): 1-16. JSTOR. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.


3 responses to “The Ethics of Incarceration

  1. I think that the prison system is a very unique organization for multiple reasons. First, unless you are look at privately run prisons, they are a government entity which has no interest in moneymaking. Secondly, I think that prisons are interesting because they have no “product”. They are punishing people who have broken the rules of society and their “product” if anything is the ability to effectively punish criminals to prevent them from committing future crimes. With a consequentialist analysis, as you mentioned, I think that it would be interesting to determine what “the best outcome” is for prisoners.


  2. These are good topics. But what specific organization will you look at?

    How about the Corrections Corporation of America? [CCA]?

    There is also the deplorable “kids for cash” scandal in PA. Although it seemed to be two privately held detention centers, so maybe harder ot get information. On the other hand, the fact that it was legally prosecuted will leave a paper trail. Wiki link on scandal:


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