Lovisa Stannow, Letter to the Editor: State should protect inmates’ rights, The Portland Phoenix, October 16, 2009

As Lance Tapley points out, denying prisoners access to human-rights protections is a mistake (see "Less Than Equal," October 2). Prisoners lose their right to liberty -- not their right to be treated with dignity. Indeed, when the state removes someone's freedom, it takes on an absolute responsibility to protect that person from abuse and discrimination.

Blanket policies to reject grievances by prisoners, like the one practiced by the Maine Human Rights Commission, are an affront to the rule of law and to the very rights that the Commission is meant to protect. While ostensibly intended to avoid frivolous complaints, such policies hurt prisoners who have legitimate claims about their treatment and allow abusive officials to act with impunity.

The best way to ensure that prisons are safe and orderly -- for inmates and staff alike -- is through transparency and oversight. The Maine Human Rights Commission should amend its process and ensure that prisoners' grievances are fully addressed.

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