Country: United States
Delegate Name: Alexandre Morrison
The United States affirms that prison systems, as they operate now, exacerbate the problem of prison radicalization because of the systemic harsh treatment and dehumanization of prisoners. Throughout the world, prisoners are beaten, tortured, raped, and prisons can lack basic hygiene standards, sanitation, lights, nutrition, and other basic needs. Slave labor under authoritarian regimes is common. This is a universal issue, and although the UN lacks enforcement power, it should still relentlessly condemn human rights abuses and violations of the Nelson Mandela Rules (UN list of basic and necessary standards for the treatment of prisoners globally.)
The United States has an important international role in establishing the treatment of prisoners because we have one of the highest percentages of our population in prison. For every 100,000 people, 505 are incarcerated. We also have some of the highest recidivism rates in the world, with almost 44% of our prisoners returning to prison after less than a year of freedom. It’s clear we have a serious problem.
Many Americans look to prison reform as a solution to prison radicalization and recidivism rates because our current prisons are heavily exploitative and create a co-dependency on the system for many inmates. Physical violence, sexual assault, penal labor, and isolation from the outside cause resentment in inmates which can lead to radicalization and violence. As an alternative, many suggest an increased focus on rehabilitation, humane treatment, normalization of inmates, and deradicalization programs.
Rehabilitation is best achieved through prisoners having the resources to better themselves, such as access to higher education, books, and developmental opportunities during their sentence. Humane treatment, as outlined in the Nelson Mandela Rules, exists when all basic necessities are supplied, violence is kept to a minimum, prisoner safety and wellbeing is prioritized, and connections to family, community, and society are maintained. Normalization is the attempt to connect prisoners to the outside world as best as possible through meeting people in person (e.x. religious leaders) and having continuous contact with families. The goal is that prisoners are able to live in a way that resembles life outside their cells. Deradicalization programs, of particular international interest, exist not as propaganda for the state, but as an amelioration of extremism. Prisoners should be exposed to diverse viewpoints and understand more nuanced opinions with the hopes that extreme racial, ethnic, ideological, and reactionary ideas can be mitigated.
Additionally, vocational training is one of the healthiest ways to humanize prisoners. By learning a craft, inmates can earn remuneration and learn a skill that they can use to stay employed post-incarceration. It has been shown to increase feelings of self-satisfaction and calm discontent within prison populations.
With these solutions put forward for reformation, the United States calls on other delegate nations to develop reforms focused on deradicalizing their prisoners. We must work together as a committee if we hope to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal 16: peace, justice, and strong institutions. Prisoners are people too, and no nation should make them feel inhumane and not expect bitterness and radicalization to fester and grow as a result.