Opinion

Denying food is cruel

The state Department of Corrections should immediately cease its practice of denying food to inmates who don't follow prison rules.

Civilized countries, especially those with constitutions specifically forbidding cruel and unusual punishments, can surely find better ways to punish inmates than denying the most basic of human needs.

Last week, The State newspaper reported that Corrections Department documents show some inmates who break the rules are being denied food, including some who violate rules on grooming.

The newspaper wrote about one inmate at the Tyger River Correctional Institution in Spartanburg who was denied food for five days after he refused to shave with a razor. The inmate later required medical treatment.

Jon Ozmint, the Corrections Department's director, adamantly denies that prisons are withholding food. Rather, inmates are choosing to not eat by refusing to follow the rules.

That's tantamount to saying a jaywalker chose torture by refusing to cross at the light.

Some among us might withhold all sympathy for inmates. After all, they might say, the inmates chose to be in jail and chose to break the rules.

We're all for punishing those who break the laws. And we're for running disciplined prisons, where inmates face consequences for breaking the rules. But the way a country treats its most troubled citizens says volumes about its compassion and humanity.

Surely America and South Carolina can find more humane punishment than denying food to inmates.

"To me, that goes back to concentration camps," former state corrections director Bill Leeke told The State. "We're a civilized society."

Yes, we are. So let's stop this cruel punishment now.

IN SUMMARY

Withholding food from S.C. prisoners is a cruel and inhumane punishment that must stop.

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