An incident involving two convicted New York prisoners who escaped from a maximum security jail brought much attention to the issue on how far an enforcer’s right to use deadly force against escapees could go.
Out of the two escapees mentioned above, one ended up dead after being shot by the pursuing officers. The other escapee was captured a couple of days after the incident. He was found bleeding because of a gunshot wound. Now, the big question is: “Are law enforcement officers really given the right to use deadly force when dealing with escaped convicts?”
Proper Treatment of Convicts Based on American Bar Association Standards
The ABA (American Bar Association), the group responsible for the creation and implementation of humane standards for treating convicts, has a very clear answer to the question above.
Yes, deadly force can be used against a convict attempting to escape but this should be under special circumstances only. “Escaping” means leaving the enclosed areas of the prison without due permission from the authorities. Jail guards or other law enforcers are required to issue a loud verbal warning or other methods in order to stop a convict from escaping. The use of deadly force (which is inclusive of firing guns at the escapee) will be permitted when the actions mentioned above have totally failed.
The “Deadly Force” Standards of the State of Florida
Laws of the state of Florida require less for the use of deadly force on escaping convicts. This is of course in comparison with the standards of the ABA. Florida laws allow jail authorities or law enforcers to use whatever means necessary to prevent an arrested individual or a convict in custody from escaping. Deadly force can be used by a jail guard or enforcer without the requirement of initially using verbal warnings or other methods in foiling an escape attempt.
US and International Standards Fail to Meet in the Middle According to AI Report
The standards for New York and the rest of the states in the US have been reviewed by AI (Amnesty International). Its most recent report highlights the fact that in general, US standards on using deadly force against escapees fail international standards. The United Nations has established a set of international guidelines about prisoner/escapee treatment a long time ago. According to the UN, deadly force is definitely the last resort when it comes to dealing with escapees. The US fails to satisfy these guidelines because majority of its state standards allow the use of deadly force on a wide spectrum of circumstances.
Most of the US States Violate the Constitution
Florida and 12 other states clearly don’t satisfy the US constitutional standards when it comes to dealing with escapees. This is a fact which was pointed out in the article of Mother Jones published just this year.
What alarms most people today is that no US state has clearly specified in its standards that deadly force should be used only as a last resort. None of these standards also mention that the use of deadly force against escapees is permitted on grounds of self-defense or when the life and limb of a law enforcer is in jeopardy. AI also noted that if an officer uses deadly force against escapees, they are not required to undergo accountability procedures (i.e. filing of reports for firing a gun, and other related matters).
It is easy to say that current US conditions have worsened. This is on the perspective of lack of sufficient laws that protect convicts from the use of deadly force by law enforcers. Yes, prisoners have a limited set of rights because of their status. However this should not be used as reason enough for enforcers to easily violate their rights against use of lethal force during escape attempts.
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