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January 28, 2011

Is it inhumane for a "giant" criminal to be incarcerated in a small cell?

The question in the title of this post might seem like an abstract query for those like Adam Kolber and the many others currently engaging in a robust theoretical debate about the significant of subjective experience to punishment theory and policies (see papers here and here and here and here and here and here for just a portion of this debate).  In fact, as detailed in this new BBC article, the question is currently before a court at The Hague:  

A Dutch prisoner described by his lawyer as a giant has gone to court over the size of his single cell, arguing that it is inhumanely small.  The prisoner, 2.07m tall (6ft 9in) and 230kg (36st), says he cannot properly sleep or use the toilet.

Prison officials have tried to relieve his discomfort by adding a a 2.15m plank and an extra mattress to his bed.  Named by his lawyer as Angelo MacD., he is asking to complete his two-year sentence for fraud under house arrest.

His lawyer, Bas Martens, told a court in The Hague that his client's conditions of detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights. He insisted that MacD. was not trying to get out of serving his time.  "My client just wants to serve a comparable sentence without pain," Mr Martens told Radio Netherlands....

"He is 2.07m tall and a metre wide and a metre deep," he said.  "He is not obese.  He is a giant.  He even walks like a giant, like out of the comic books."

MacD. began his sentence on 29 September and is not due for release until 12 April 2012. His cell in a prison in the south-western town of Krimpen aan de IJssel would probably be adequate for most prisoners but for him, the problems start in the doorway, where he must bow his head to pass through.

His bed, which is fixed to the wall, is 77cm wide and 1.96m long, according to a sketch provided by Mr Martens. This means that his client must sleep on his side ... [and] he now has to "sleep with one eye open in case he falls out of bed", Mr Martens said.

To take a shower, he must first wedge himself into the cubicle, then crouch down under the head. So tiny and low is his toilet, he complains, that "visits" must be kept to the absolute minimum.

Other alleged problems included a lack of adequate space for family visits and suitable seating in the prison canteen.  Mr Martens pointed out that his client was unable to do prison work for similar reasons, despite this being a requirement of his sentence.

A court ruling on the case is expected early next month.

January 28, 2011 at 08:25 AM | Permalink


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The Beeb helpfully tells its audience that 230 kilograms is 36 stones.

For Americans, that's a bit over 500 pounds. Yep, that's a big guy.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jan 28, 2011 2:55:35 PM

If this guy really is 500 pounds, the humane thing to do is force him to go on a diet. He'll feel a lot better and live longer. People that obese rarely make it out of their forties.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 28, 2011 4:22:52 PM

Kolber is right behind you. http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2011/01/the-subjective-experience-of-being-a-giant-in-prison-kolber.html

Posted by: CWimmer | Jan 28, 2011 5:36:06 PM

I have it on good authority that even the anti-Kolberians could justifiably offer rationales for exceptions needing to be made for people of this sort!

Posted by: Dan Markel | Feb 3, 2011 9:47:51 PM

Oh, the Dutch has lots of problem. If he has the proper information about the cell, I am definite that, he never committed crime. I am Brian, paralegal student.

Posted by: George Allen | Feb 4, 2011 8:21:08 AM

Fair warning to Rookie Kagan: if you refuse to carry CJ Roberts' (legal) pads, karma will land you with an injury that prevents you from writing any opinions for at least six weeks..

Posted by: pandora charms | Jul 14, 2011 11:04:15 PM

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