More Overtly Human

The economic crisis is affecting prisons and as a result several are cutting back, including on the number of meals served inmates, from 3 to 2 several days a week, which among other unpleasant things means time lags between meals long enough to invite hunger. And this despite the fact that studies show a correlation between substandard prison food and violence and discipline problems. There’s been no outcry, some feel it’s only fair, most don’t even know it’s going on and were they, it is doubtful would be riled up. Regardless of outcry or of how many know, the very premise of not giving prisoners the basic human right of enough food to stave off hunger is morally wrong. Animals have the SPCA and PETA to protect their rights. When it comes to inmates we tend to wonder whether they ought to have any rights at all, suspecting it is their fault if they are in prison. They are criminals who deserve to be punished. Even assuming such a point of view would have validity, would such line of thought absolve us of our own moral responsibility as part of a society which engages in such practice? As moral beings we need to ask ourselves under what circumstances could our silence itself be considered morally offensive? Similarly, under what circumstances could our ignorance of prison conditions and reluctance to treat prisoners like full human beings make us accomplices in the morally objectionable way they are treated? The point is not to be a bleeding heart, but to understand that being a criminal does not make one less human, just one more overtly so.