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?
I think prison guards have huge responsibilities in providing the basic needs of prisoners. In this aspect, providing food can be considered as one of the most basic needs for prisoners. These individuals are protesting the administrative detention that allows incarceration to last up to six months without a trial or charge. Therefore, they do have a cause for protesting and rejecting the food as part of this protest. Even though prison guards cannot and should not physically force these people to eat, several actions can be taken to stop this protest and make them start eating. In this aspect, I believe the cause of the protest should be taken to the appropriate authorities and see if there is anything that can be done which satisfies the prisoners’ requests with respect to administrative detention. Once this problem is solved or found a middle conclusion, everything should be fine. In this regard, I definitely think that the government has a duty to stop the prisoners from starving to death. That is why I recommended some kind of corroboration between the prisoners and the appropriate authorities. The government should make sure that prisoners live in good conditions with no health problems. This is the responsibility that cannot be ignored.
While guard’s responsibilities may entail protecting the prison population and insuring that no harm comes to them, they are not required (nor properly certified) to insure that they are healthy. The prison medical staff should hold the burden of providing IVs and other medical treatment, which would give the inmates proper vitamins and minerals to sustain them, but other than that I do not believe their responsibilities extend further. While the prisoners are not afforded all the rights to that are insured by the laws of their country, I would assume they are still allowed to be protected from invasive intrusions into their body, such as force feedings. Even if it is to save the life of the individuals, I believe that the prisoner should be allowed to not eat and protest in the way they see fit. The only issue is with liability falling on the prison for their eventual deaths. If the prison can show that they did all they could to prevent their demise, but the demise can be attributable to something outside the prison’s control, then the prison should not be held liable for wrongful death of the prisoners.