Penal harm
Penal harm, an intentionally harsher form of the "deprivation of liberty", is the belief that during custodial sentence
Custodial sentence
A custodial sentence is a judicial sentence, imposing a punishment consisting of mandatory custody of the convict, either in prison or in some other closed therapeutic and/or educational institution, such as a reformatory, psychiatry or drug detoxification...

s (mainly in prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 or reformatory
Reformatory is a term that has had varied meanings within the penal system, depending on the jurisdiction and the era. It may refer to a youth detention center, or an adult correctional facility. The term is still in popular use for adult facilities throughout the United States, although most...

), inmates should endure additional pain and suffering, not just having their basic rights taken away, to make the punishment deliberately harder.

While this improves the desirable deterrent effect of detention, and fits the idea of retribution, its perception as cruelty rather than justice may endanger both internal security and prospects for rehabilitation
Rehabilitation (penology)
Rehabilitation means; To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or To restore to good condition, operation, or capacity....

 and goes against the humane ideal of most human rights advocates, possibly qualifying legally as inhumane punishment, an infringement on human rights under the UN
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...


Although internal punishments, imposed by prison authorities, are not strictly penal harm as such, since they are not independent from the convict's behavior, arbitrary application and choice of cruel modes, including corporal punishment
Corporal punishment
Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable...

 (in South East Asian countries this can include the dreaded Rotan caning
Caning is a form of corporal punishment consisting of a number of hits with a single cane usually made of rattan, generally applied to the offender's bare or clothed buttocks or hand . Application of a cane to the knuckles or the shoulders has been much less common...

), perfectly fit the rationale.

Traditional forms include
  • hard labor
  • rationed, unappetizing or even unhealthy food
  • various discomforts such as poor hygiene, small and overcrowded cells, hard bunks, insufficient protection against cold
  • long isolation, even in a dark 'hole'
  • sleep deprivation
    Sleep deprivation
    Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function. Few studies have compared the...

  • humiliating procedures such as strip search
    Strip search
    A strip search is the stripping of a person to check for weapons or other contraband.-Legality of strip searches:...

  • denial of visits, correspondence and recreation.

In recent years, penal harm has taken (among other things) the form of poor health care
Health care
Health care is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. Health care is delivered by practitioners in medicine, chiropractic, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, and other care providers...

 for inmates; this includes the denial of medicine for patients diagnosed with HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...


It must be pointed out that many of the physical forms can also arise accidentally, as a result of understaffing, insufficient budget, or even legal considerations (such as delays deemed necessary for appeal procedures).
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