The Right of Inmates to Work

Rex Martin

in A System of Rights

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780198292937
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599811 | DOI:
 The Right of Inmates to Work

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The chapter argues that treatment and rehabilitation can be a mode of punishment only if it is required of convicted offenders, either in virtue of a legal sanction imposed on them or in virtue of their status as adjudged violators, and it can exhibit an essential tie with civil rights (as do the other two modes, penalty and compensation) only if convicts are, in virtue of their status, required to receive certain services or benefits that the violator (along with other citizens) has a right to. The argument is developed by reference to work in prisons.

One problem faced by this analysis is the widespread belief that convicts qua adjudged violators have forfeited certain important rights (or, indeed, all rights); this claim about forfeit is challenged. Another problem is to distinguish beneficial and rehabilitative work in prisons from hard labour conceived as a penalty or from remunerative work designed to help prisoners pay compensation to their victims. The case for work in prisons as

beneficial and rehabilitative, rests on the idea that work there can be not only a general expectation attached to prisoner status but also a putative right of prisoners (as one feature of a policy of full employment for all citizens, which is itself justified by the idea of a right to work).

This line of analysis completes the turn, begun with the discussion of compensation, toward emphasizing coercion of the adjudged law breaker (rather than emphasizing causing them pain) in one's characterization of punishment and, ultimately, of treating punishment in all its modes as integral to a system of rights. The chapter concludes by summarizing the place of punishment in such a system and the reforms needed to make it optimally suitable there.

Keywords: coercion; forfeit; full employment; hard labour; prisons; punishment; rehabilitation; remunerative work; right to work; treatment

Chapter.  12057 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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