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State of Prison

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Judge Tom Ross remarked, 'One way to measure the health of a society is to examine the quality of its justice -- to look at how it exercises its power over the least of its citizens.'

In America, the ACLU champions prisoner rights, leading to such benefits as weight lifting and cable television access for inmates. Incarceration in the west is a far cry from the prisons feared in Office Space. So far in fact, that Brazil is hosting its annual Miss Penitentiary contest, a competition also held in Peruvian and Columbian prisons. Held to 'raise self esteem,' the contestants vying for the title include drug traffickers and armed robbers amongst other felons. Of note, the judging panel is composed of celebrities, athletes and journalists, a curious composure indicating acceptance of the competition by the public.

Comparing western prisons to those across the world reveals stark difference in handling of inmates. Recent cases of Iraqi prisoner abuse were conducted by the Iraqi people themselves. North Korea is infamous for torture gulags akin to Russia's Siberian camps. Do western prisons really correct behavioral problems? Or does the west merely follow an 'out of sight, out of mind' practice with its offenders?

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