Sample Criminal Justice Paper on Cuba


Prisons are known for the torture both mental and physical that the inmates are forced to endure. Correctional institutions, in general, though meant to make the inmates better people do more harm than good to the people. Though the inmate comes out a better person in most cases, the torture that they have to undergo is unbearable. Prisons first of all cut off the inmate’s freedom of association. The inmates are confined and only visited once in a while. The loneliness that one faces is enough to drive one crazy. Prisons also expose one to violence. There are a number of cases where people have been assaulted badly in prisons people are beaten up and even sexually assaulted. Due to these reasons there has been the need for changes in prisons to make them friendlier to the inmates. This paper looks at the correctional practices in Cuba especially focusing on long term imprisonment.

The correctional practices are known to be somewhat crude and as such have been frowned upon by countries and organizations that propose upholding of human rights. Though there are Standard Minimum rules for treatment of prisoners which every country is supposed to follow, the treatment of prisoners in Cuba fall well below the rules (Maloof, J 2009). The prisoners live in unhealthy conditions and are prone to abuse and assault of all kinds. There have been attempts by the United Nations to ensure that these rules are observed but as can be seen from the current state of the country, the rules have not been adhered to. Cuba however insists that through the new regulations that it has set in place, it has been able to adhere to the standard rules set by the UN.

There are different kinds of punishment in Cuba just like there are different kinds of punishment in countries all over the world. Cuba’ correctional system includes corporal punishment, long and short term imprisonment, and the death penalty for serious offences. These sentences are given at different times depending on the type and the seriousness of the offence. Once a person is admitted into Cuban prisons, the person’s real problems begin. What makes the situation in Cuba worse is the fact that there are no domestic or international human rights monitors to conduct visits to the prisons (Maloof, J 2009). Even when people or organizations would like to visit prisons and find out what conditions the inmates live in, the country’s correctional system does not allow for such an occurrence. The country maintains high levels of secrecy when it comes to its prisons. Even the most basic information such as the number of inmates that they have in their prisons is not released to the public. This makes it difficult to find out the exact number of inmates that are housed in Cuban prisons. It is also rendered impossible to find out the racial compositions of the prisons.

The correctional system in Cuba is majorly run by the Interior Ministry. It is not uncommon to find that the prison guards and labor camps oversee are mainly solders. The military officers however only oversee prisons and institutions that hold normal citizens. Political prisoners are kept under the care of special units of the state security police. Since the number of inmates may at times be high, it is not easy to monitor what goes on in the life of every prisoner. In the men’s prisons, prison guards appoint prisoners to watch over their fellow inmates. These prisoners join prison councils and are mostly responsible for the disciplinary of their fellow inmates. This however is done under the watch of the prison wardens. These members of the council are allowed to distribute food to other prisoners and to take charge of internal discipline. It is also known that the members of these councils are the ones who commit the worst atrocities against their fellow inmates subjecting them to much pain and torture.

Food in Cuban prisons is as big an issue, maybe even bigger than it is in other prisons. The food in Cuban prisons is measured by the spoonful (Maloof, J 2009). As such, prisoners in Cuba end up not getting enough food and are prone to malnutrition. The Cuban government however is not willing to accept this fact. There have been plenty of allegations from the government that even when there was an economic blockade in the country, the prisoners were sufficiently fed. The government contends that the prisoners are allowed to keep farm animals and these are used for their meals. The government also gave a report that stated that any malnutrition prisoner was well taken care of and was given vitamins and more food than the others. This assertion of the government is however not true. There is little food for the prisoners and that food is in most cases not well cooked. More problems arise since the distribution of food has been left in the hands of the prisoners’ council. The prisoners who distribute the food are bound to take the best and the largest quantity for themselves before issuing out the rest. Even then there is no guarantee of fairness in food distribution.

A major problem that most of the inmates in Cuban prisons face is beatings, assaults and a lot of violence. Beatings in Cuban prisons are seen as disciplinary measures. It is carried out by the police, the prison guards and even members of the prisoners’ council who are themselves prisoners. The beatings are not legal according to the standards of prisoners’ treatment as set by the UN. They are, however overlooked in Cuban prisons. The beatings are carried out in a cruel manner. They are done to intimidate prisoners who have strong political opinions and even to force prisoners into offering sexual favors. Prisoners can also be punished through thorough beating for criticizing prison policies or for publicizing the gross violation of human rights that happen in the prisons. The prison officials who beat up these prisoners are rarely ever punished and when they are, the punishment given is not enough to redress the wrong done to the prisoners.

Sexual abuse is another problem that if faced in Cuba’s correctional centers, especially by long term prisoners. Sexual abuse is a problem that most correctional centers in the world grapple with, and while there have been laws and efforts to eradicate this vice all over the world, Cuba seems to lag behind. Sexual abuse is mostly perpetrated by members of the prisoners’ councils. These members have authority and as such are in a position to violate their fellow inmates sexually. Prison guards have also been known to commit sexual offences, or engage in sexual misconduct with the inmates, these offences they excuse by claiming that it was consensual. It is believed that the prisoners who are at a greater risk of being sexually abused are the young prisoners. The guards who take part in these acts are not fired; in fact the only disciplinary action that is taken against them is a transfer. Prisoners who are members of the prisoner’s council on the other hand are not punished for these gross violations of human rights. It is believed that the guards and prison officials permit these occurrences as a way of obtaining their loyalty.

The prison conditions in correctional facilities in Cuba leave a lot to be desired (Newman R 2010). These prisons are overcrowded and unhygienic. Access to clean water is impossible thus prisoners live in filthy conditions. The toilets are filthy and there are not enough beds in the facilities. The beddings are rarely fumigated and as such they are rare and when available, infested with bedbugs and other biting insects. Cuban prisoners undergo problems such as malnutrition, and the risk of spreading of diseases due to overcrowding. These prisoners are however denied access to medical care. Even when medicine is brought by the prisoners’ relatives, they are not given. Prison doctors’ visits, as set out in the Standard Minimum Rules are unheard of in Cuba’s prisons (Newman, R 2010). Though there are medical staffs in Cuban prisons, the inmates are not given any attention. Most ailments go untreated and there have been cases of death in prison due to lack of medical attention.

Visitation rights in Cuba’s prisons are limited (Roth P 2005). The prison authorities have the right to impose limitations to the visits from family members and friends of the inmates. Visitation rights are human rights that prisoners should never be denied. It is on such occasions that they get better food and supplement medical care. Denying prisoners this right as can be seen from the case of Cuba subjects the inmates to a lot of mental emotional problems. The isolation and loneliness that the inmates are subjected to is enough to drive one crazy. Cases are reported in Cuba where the prisoners are allowed only toe hour family visits. The maximum number of family members who can visit is also restricted to two. These visits are not frequent and occur once in every three of four months. Reduction of visits is a way of punishment. This is done when a prisoner refuses to take part in political re-education seminars. Cuban prisoner are, however, at times allowed conjugal rights from their spouses (Roth, P 2006). Infants are also allowed to stay with their mothers until when they are one year old after which the family takes them or they are taken to a government run child care center. Searches occasioned on prisoners and their families are nothing but humiliating. They are made to disrobe in front of the prison guards and are searched even in the most private of their body parts, this is done to the prisoners, their spouses and even their children, it doesn’t matter whether one is a prisoner or not. The bright part of this is that the searches are carried out by same sex guards.

Cuban Long Term Imprisonment versus Short Term Imprisonment

The Cuban correctional system as compared to the U.S. system is the worse. It is degrading and oppressing to the inmates. The inmates are not allowed to complain about what they are forced to undergo. In the U.S, the inmates are accorded more dignity. They are searched every once in a while, and are at times required to strip in front of the prison wardens. The strip searches are carried out by wardens of the same sex. Unlike Cuba, however, the inmates’ family members and friends are not strip searches.

Visitation rights in prisons in the U.S are rights that cannot be denied of a prisoner (Sifakis, P 2005). Such rights are understood to be vital especially to prisoners facing long term imprisonments and are thus respected. The inmates are allowed long hours of visitations and bonding with friends and family. The number of visitors is not restricted. The prisoners are allowed conjugal visits whenever they request. This goes a long way in ensuring that prisoners are treated as human being and their human dignity is upheld.

Sexual assault in American prisons is a problem that the country has tried its best to eradicate. There are, however, still reports of such occurrences (Henderson, W 2010). Sexual assaults in the prisons are committed mostly by the inmates on other inmates. When the inmates are reported, however, they face strict disciplinary actions. Homosexuality in American prisons is the more common occurrence (Easton, S 2011). The inmates feel the need for comforts and companionship and as such they turn to each other for satisfaction. Sexual relations between the prisoners and wardens are prohibited. When such occurrences are discovered, the prison wardens are punished severely.

Food and hygiene in prisons in the U.S are at a good standard. The prisoners are given at least three meals a day. They are allowed hospital visits (Easton, S 2011) and the general hygiene of the prisons is good. There is no congestion in the prisons. Each prisoner is given his or her own bed; the beddings are of good quality and are kept clean. Prisoners are also allowed to have individual political ideas. Prisoners in American prisons are allowed to take part in extra curriculum activities. They are given education such as art work, and are allowed to play games such as basketball and tennis. In the U.S, prisons do not focus on punishment as much as they focus on correction (Easton, S 2011). It is believed that putting a person in isolation behind bars is enough punishment. Prisons should therefore go just beyond punishing the offender and also make sure that he or she leaves the facility a better person.


The correctional practices in the U.S are clearly better than those practiced in Cuba. They ensure the growth of the prisoner and do not rid the prisoner of human rights and human dignity. It is therefore important that such practices be adopted in Cuba. Wardens who mistreat prisoners should be punished thoroughly.

Prisoners’ council should be done away with. This is because these the most common way in which prisoners are molested and harassed. Laws governing sexual harassment should also be made stricter to protect prisoners from such vices.




Newman, G. R. (2010). Crime and punishment around the world. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-Clio.

Maloof, J. (1999). Voices of resistance: Testimonies of Cuban and Chilean women. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.

Roth, M. P. (2006). Prisons and prison systems: A global encyclopedia. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press.

Easton, S. (2011). Prisoners’ Rights: Principles and Practice. New York, Taylor & Francis Publishers.

Henderson, C. W. (2010). Understanding international law. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sifakis, C. (2005). The encyclopedia of American prisons. New York: Facts o