When a person is imprisoned, they are at the mercy of the prison staff. The prison and the guards become responsible for the inmates’ personal needs like medical care, food, exercise, complaints, etc. Prison guards are one of the prisoner’s only avenues of receiving these necessities. The prisoner puts his or her life in the hands of the prison guard. The guards have a duty to these individuals to give them the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities. (This is the standard that was set forth in Rhodes v. Chapman for inmates at a Southern Ohio Corrections Facility.) Since the prison guards inherently become responsible for the prisoners and their wellbeing, the prison and the staff can be sued if the prisoners’ needs are not met and the staff is deliberately indifferent to the needs of the inmates.
The prison has this responsibility to protect the inmates, but what happens when the inmates’ greatest threat is themselves? Does the guard have a duty to protect the inmate and take forcible action to stop the prisoner from self-harm?
In Israel, there are twelve Palestinians on a hunger strike in an Israeli jail. These individuals are protesting the administrative detention. Akras al Fseisi, Moammar Banat, and Waheed Abu Maraya are part of this hunger strike. They have been refusing to eat for over sixty days. Their health conditions are deteriorating and the Palestinian authorities fear that the situation is dire for these individuals. Administrative detention allows incarceration to last up to six months without a trial or charge. Maraya has lost eighty eight pounds. He has trouble walking, has pain in his chest, memory loss, and vision problems. The prisoners will only take water and salt from the staff.
Should the prisoners be force fed? Does the government have a duty to stop the prisoners from starving to death? If so, to what extent can they go to save the prisoners?