Special Populations and the Importance of Prison Oversight

This article discusses the critical need for the development of effective, independent oversight mechanisms to ensure that prisons and jails become more transparent in their operations and more accountable for the protection of the rights of prisoners. The focus is on four special populations of incarcerated people for whom the need for external scrutiny with regard to their treatment is especially critical: people housed in segregation and other forms of isolation, those at greatest risk for sexual assault, people living with a mental health challenge or who are physically disabled, and people with serious medical needs. The article highlights examples of independent oversight entities that can serve as models and identifies the essential elements of effective prison oversight.