Penal harm

Not to be confused with Penile fracture.

Penal harm, an intentionally harsher form of the "deprivation of liberty", is the belief that during custodial sentences (mainly in prison or reformatory), inmates should endure additional pain and suffering, not just having their basic rights taken away, to make the punishment deliberately harder.[1][2][3]

While this improves the desirable deterrent effect of detention, and fits the idea of retribution, its perception as cruelty rather than justice may endanger both internal security and prospects for rehabilitation and goes against the humane ideal of most human rights advocates, possibly qualifying legally as inhumane punishment, an infringement on human rights under the UN rules.

Although internal punishments, imposed by prison authorities, are not strictly penal harm as such, since they are not independent from the convict's behavior, arbitrary application and choice of cruel modes, including corporal punishment (in South East Asian countries this can include the dreaded Rattan caning), perfectly fit the rationale.

Traditional forms include

In the 1990s and 2000s, penal harm has taken (among other things) the form of poor health care for inmates;[4][5] this includes the denial of medicine for patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.[5][6]

It must be pointed out that many of the physical forms can also arise accidentally, as a result of understaffing, insufficient budget, or even legal considerations (such as delays deemed necessary for appeal procedures).

See also


  1. Harm in American Penology: Offenders, Victims, and Their Communities - Todd R. Clear - Google Boeken. 1994-11-22. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  2. "Penal harm medicine: state tort remedie... [Crime Law Soc Change. 1999] - PubMed - NCBI". 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  3. "NCJRS Abstract - National Criminal Justice Reference Service". Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  4. Maeve, Katherine M., and Michael S. Vaughn. "Nursing with prisoners: The practice of caring, forensic nursing or penal harm nursing?." Advances in Nursing Science 24.2 (2001): 47-64.
  5. 1 2 Vaughn, Michael S., and Linda G. Smith. "Practicing penal harm medicine in the United States: Prisoners' voices from jail." Justice Quarterly 16.1 (1999): 175-231.
  6. Michael Welch (8 June 2004). Ironies of Imprisonment. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4522-3739-8.
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