Without access to the internet, convicts released from their prison sentence find it hard to integrate themselves back to a community that continued to exist without them. Their participation in the civilian community is put in jeopardy because they are made so unaware of changes in the world. Deprived of the online world, these prisoners are held back to relatively older methods of communication, like snail mail. Out of all the states, only four allow some form of limited internet access, a striking statistic. A large number of people argue that internet access counts as a basic human necessity, much like food and water, and the denial of it is a rejection of human rights.
This argument was only made stronger when a certain prisoner named Michael Santos, who finished his 25 year prison sentence three years ago, said that individuals from the outside should have access to firsthand account of life inside prison itself. Without access to the internet, prisoners are completely shunned from the “outside world”, denying them even merely an exposure to it online. Not only does this disrupt chances for proper rehabilitation when they are released, it also silences them in any worldwide conversation that they should be part of.
Denying their voice allows the world to forget they exist. As Santos recounts his experiences in prison life, he tells of a band of prison guards who brutally abuse prisoners. Although he and many other inmates witnessed these direct denials of human rights, the issue remains under-reported. Abuse of power by prison guards themselves involves 2.2 million incarcerated persons, and even half of sexual abuse claims in these American prisons were placed against the prison guards. It is interesting to see how the pattern of removal of access to modern technology is an act intended to abuse by dictatorship. Without the internet, the voice given by social media is disrupted, leaving no connection for countless opinions to be shared.
It is, however, a point to be discussed whether prisoners should be given the same capacity to report abuse cases as the civilian population. Although this remains a ground for debate, it is important to notice how prisoners who illegally get access to internet use this voice. As Tech Behind Bars went over hundreds of social media accounts owned by prisoners through prohibited possession of cellphones, it was found that their online activity is simply meant to reflect prison life or the prisoner themselves. Still, these cellphone bans are followed to reduce risk of sex offenders and gang activity.
Ultimately, although incarcerated, prisoners are still offered a freedom of speech. Whether the internet is a fundamental human right is a tricky ground to stand on at the moment, but the fact remains clear. Denying prisoners to even a censored version of current affairs negates their ability to survive in a world that has continued without them and disallows them to cope with life in imprisonment.
The “revolving door” aspect, where prisoners find themselves back in prison within three years after their release, is only being strengthened because of their lack of education and skills. Without the ability to handle computers and the proper understanding of the internet, they are left unemployed and more likely to find themselves back in prison. We must understand that the right to the use of the internet allows them to learn and grow. This continuing degradation of prisoners is a crisis that must be faced because it does not only hurt them, but the entire society as a whole.
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