Because people have forgotten the reason for the establishment of government, states have regularly failed in their fundamental duties. This failure is acutely visible in modern-day prisons.
education in crime
Imprisonment is too often a violation of fundamental rights. Such violation does damage not only to the person whose rights are infringed but also to all the individuals in the society, for the law-abiding citizen becomes used to the violation of rights and so finds it acceptable under certain circumstances; the prisoner himself can only conclude from the way the state treats him that the very concept is meaningless - all the while learning how to commit bigger and better crimes. At the very least, he will not leave prison convinced that all men are worthy of respect and are "endowed by their Creator with certain unaliemable rights".
Ideally, those crimininals who have committed the most violent crimes (murder, rape, child abuse...) and who would not benefit from medical treatment should, after making restitution, be removed to an island somewhere. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.
Because we live in the real world, real-world solutions have to be found. The following are, in my opinion, realistic proposals:
First, the criminal-justice system must be reserved for those who violate the rights of others. It should be recognized in law that those acts which have no victim (eg, drug abuse, voluntary prostitution) are not the business of the state.
Second, when the criminal does not present a danger for society or has not commited a violent crime, fines must be set with the obligation to make restitution to victims (including the community) as the only consideration.
Third, prison must be reserved specifically for those who pose a threat to society or who would not otherwise make restitution for their crimes.
Fourth, the prison regimen must be organized around the concept of respect for the dignity of the prisoner.
Fifth, a fair wage must be paid to prisoners. Prisoners should have not only to make restitution but to support themselves while in prison and save for the day they are released.
Sixth, prison must offer inmates education for success in the outside world.
Finally, prison must offer prisoners education in human rights.
It is my opinion that the criminal justice system has about it more of the criminal than of the just. Prisons are the scene of constant egregious violations of fundamental human rights and so are as unacceptable as capital punishment itself.
They are costly dumping grounds where we cage and torment human beings, most of whom are there simply because they do not conform to our notions of morality and right-acting.
And we do this for convenience' sake or out of sheer spite.
By allowing the prison system to go on as it is, we are showing that - despite all our fine words about Human Rights and our supposed desire to rehabilitate the criminal - we don't really believe a word of it.