There are basic human rights that should apply to everyone, no matter what their position in life. Basic humanistic rights are the right to food, water and shelter. This should also be the case for prisoners. When we think about prisoners, we tend to think about people who has committed crime and have been found guilty by a judge and jury, and have been incarcerated in order to pay for their crimes to society. Prisoners especially in western cultures will have access to legal representation. But we should also consider prisoners of war and political prisoners as well, but in this essay we will not have the capacity to consider those issues at the present.
In western civilization there is the emphasis on rehabilitation of the offender. Prisoners are usually offered programs to help them gain qualifications (the majority of prisoners have a learning disability such as dyslexia), work experience that will help them find work on release.
They are also usually supported understanding how their actions have affected their victims. This may take the form of community service by giving something back to the community or by a face to face apology to their victim.
It is also realized that society in general needs to take on some of the responsibility to the offender. Bearing in mind that crimes are sometimes committed out of desperation and survival e.g. loss of job, loss of home, loss of relationships, not meeting the criteria for benefits, no food, no anything.
Another point of view is that in general terms in the USA and UK, prisoners are treated better than the elderly and the veterans in our society. Prisoners know they are going to get three meals a day, they know they have bed to sleep in and have medical attention and they have companionship. This has got to be better than living on the street.
There is also the thought that prisoners have chosen to break the law so they must suffer the consequences.
The way that prisoners are treated varies from country to country. In some countries, prisoners would not have the right to expect a cell on their own or to have running water and proper sanitation available. For these people the sentence would be served in a cell shared with many other prisoners and the toilet would be a hole in the floor shared by everyone. These conditions are surely the biggest deterrent to commit a crime
There is no black and white when discussing the treatment of prisoners, but there are many shades of grey. The public needs to be protected from some people, but others are victims of circumstances and not all of their own making.