One of our strongest sources of pride as American citizens is the fact that America is a land of opportunity; that one can pull himself up by his bootstraps and make something great of himself; that each individual has power over his own destiny. This represents the American belief system of self-determinism. With it comes a responsibility. Each person is also to be held accountable for his own actions, both good and bad. This represents the American value of retribution, or justice. In addition to self-determinism and retribution, there are the values of fairness and humanitarianism. Often times, the two go hand-in-hand in the American justice system. However, they are sometimes at odds with each other; when men commit crimes due to circumstance, when black men are more likely to go to jail than their white brothers for the same crime (source). While self-determinism & retribution are quite fundamental American principles, its unbridled behavior has had drastic consequences for the welfare of its prisoners, and a greater emphasis on equity and humanitarianism, already quite prevalent in America as well, could bring balance to the American justice system.
Before discussing the values which influence the way the justice system runs, it is important to consider the reasons that prisons exist in the first place. Security is one of the basic needs of humans, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is a psychological need that allows one to relax from flight or fight mode,