What can be done about prison overcrowding

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Last updated: April 7, 2019

Prison overcrowding has escalated to almost uncontrollable heights and needs to be resolved with urgency. It has been cited as the major reason behind the inefficiency of the prison systems today as correctional facilities.  As professor Craig Haney in the article’ prison overcrowding:  harmful consequences and dysfunctional reactions’ noted the history of prison overcrowding dates back to the 1970’s and early 1980’s when the number of inmates outdid the number of prison staff.

It was clear that supervising and overseeing of the inmates posed a challenge to the prison staff who barely knew the inmates by name. Locating or rather tracing their where about also became an issue for them. Up to date the problem of prison overcrowding has spread across the states. The largest prisons in the US that is Texas and California have not been spared as the level of overcrowding has risen by over six to eight fold in a span of two or so decades. Overcrowding in prisons makes it difficult for the facilities to operate optimally.A major factor that aggravated the prison overcrowding is the minimal funding by the federal government. Over the years the federal government failed to match its funding towards the prisons with the increasing numbers. (John D and Morrison P 30).

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 Without the adequate funding the living conditions in the prisons have become unbearable. In most case they leave the prisons in a worse state than they got in them. (Stephen 340).  The facilities available at the prisons are not enough for the high numbers of inmates causing instability in prisons.

The resultant effect of this is that the inmates are subjected to immense or rather chronic suffering both physically as well as psychologically. Identification of inmates with psychological problems which could be effectively handled is very difficult and this precipitates the inefficiencies in prisons as correctional facilities. (Kupers T and Toch H 34).The high numbers of inmates makes it impossible to effectively implement the various rehabilitation programs as the number is too large to handle. The educational needs of inmates are ineffectively addressed leading to high illiteracy levels in the prisons and this is worse for the society as on return to the society on completion of their term the inmates are most likely to find themselves in crime to survive. Allocation of assignments is also problematic with the high numbers of inmates. Some will have to stay idle as there is simply no work for them.

As the saying goes ‘an idle mind is the devils temple’ they have enough time to equip each other with evils skills on how to commit worse crimes than those that took them to jail. The idle time also leads to their engagement in other activities like sexual evils like rape or drug trafficking. (Craig Haney).Prison overcrowding makes the prison facilities tools of inflicting pain on the inmates rather than assisting them become responsible citizens whose aim is national building. The prison staff is also negatively affected by the overcrowding problem.

For them with a call to ensure that the lives of convicted criminals have reformed high frustrations engulf them. This is attributed to the fact that the prevailing conditions in the prisons make it hard to realize this goal. Such frustrations only make the bad situation worse as some may respond in harsh manner to the inmates.

(Craig Haney). Overcrowding is also dangerous for the prison staff as the inmates can easily collude and overpower them.Prison overcrowding can also be blamed on the high rates of recidivism. (Stephen 340). With the increased numbers of inmates in prisons it is possible for the inmates to collude with the prison staff in engaging in illegal activities like drug trafficking.

This can be carried out without the notice of concerned parties due to the high numbers of prisoners. Prison overcrowding also causes delays in the realization of justice especially in states where judges are supposed to make their verdict after they have established that there is space or room in the prisons.Various strategies can be incorporated to help resolve the problem of prison overcrowding. The federal government can increase its expenditure on the criminal justice system and especially on the current prisons.

Another strategy of handling the issue of prison overcrowding would be through the application of legal measures geared towards reducing the inflow of inmates in prisons. This approach would be criticized on the grounds that it would be a source of injustice not only to the victims of crimes committed but to the society at large.  A society must have laws by which all people must abide by and failure to do this there would be more lawlessness jeopardizing the stability of nations.  Offenders ought to be punished according to the stipulated laws until constitutional amendments are made. Alternative punitive measures are also cited as a way of reducing the flow of traffic in the prisons today. Proponents of this approach have the assumption that the high numbers in prisons may be due to the fact that judges imprison people for minor offenses like a breach of license.

  In cases where people are imprisoned for serious criminal offences then this would not be an effective strategy as it would be a source of injustice in the society. However, for the minor offences the application of fines, restitute programs like home arrest or house arrest under parole or electronic monitoring would suffice in reducing the overcrowding in prisons. (Lemert 445).Making the prisons more effective would be a positive step towards making the overcrowding problem in prisons a thing of the past. Effective and efficient prisons will easily identify the needs of inmates and hence handle them appropriately. Some inmates are in prisons due to the psychological problems and should they be identified and handled effectively they would be released into the society as responsible citizens. (Kupers T and Toch H 34).

Making the prisons effective without compromising on justice would only be attained when more prisons are made and more prison staff employed. When prisons are large enough to accommodate the prisoners identification would be possible and inmates would be handled effectively.IV.

PURPOSE OF THE PROPOSAL:The problem of prison overcrowding is one that needs to be effectively addressed with the urgency that it deserves if sanity is to be realized in the current prison systems. It is important to ensure that prisons maintain their title as correctional facilities where rehabilitation takes place leaving inmates better people than they got into prisons.The purpose of this proposal is to provide a solution that will see the problem of prison overcrowding put to rest.  It will highlight the possible benefits that will be accrued should the proposed strategy be successfully implemented. It will also highlight the possible impediments to the success of this strategy.All in all it will be very important to the policy makers who will easily identify the pros and cons it entails. Policy makers who in this case will involve the law makers of the various states area very critical population is as far as the successful implementation of the proposed strategy is concerned.

They will be able to weight the benefits as well as the costs to establish its viability. It may highlight some issues that they probably could have not thought about.V. SCOPE OF THE PROPOSALBuilding more prisons is a very applicable strategy as a solution to the overcrowding problem in the US prisons today.

For sure the federal as well as the state governments will be required to dig deeper into their pockets but the benefits will make it worth the while. In as much as the current system is condemned for being ineffective in as far as the rehabilitation of criminals is concerned its success has been hampered by the uncontrollable numbers of inmates in the face of minimal facilities. In some instances the inmates have their beds along the gyms as well as along the hallways. Minimal space is a core problem leading to the inefficiencies in the prison facilities. America cannot afford to reduce to reduce the traffic of inmates by jeopardizing on justice. To this regard the numbers of prisons cannot be reduced while compromising on justice. Criminals must be punished for their crimes and according to the constitution.VI.

METHODOLOGYConstruction of more prisons will require adequate time and cannot be done over night. The strategy must be highlighted and presented as a proposal before the law makers who must then vote for it. (Steinhauer J). This way the states can release the finances required to carry out the construction of more prisons. There is need to increase funding towards the prison facilities. For decades the funding towards the prisons has not matched the increasing numbers and it would only be natural to increase the funding as the population at large has also increased tremendously. The mere logic behind this would be that crime rates a decade ago cannot be the same today as there has been an obvious increase in the population. More people have been born and those who probably did not have the criminal intent ten years ago would be having it at the moment.

Migration has also intensified over time due to various factors like ease and affordable transport or search for better and stable environments. This has also led to changed demographics in the country overtime and has led to increased populations. A good example of the application of the construction of more prisons in resolving the prison overcrowding issue is the plan by the state of California to spend a tune of $8.3 billion in the construction of the largest prison system in US. The regions law makers passed this motion which had the backing of both the democrats as well as the liberals who argued that crime ought not to go unpunished on the grounds that there is no room to accommodate the prisoners. In other words inadequate facilities will not deter punitive measures from being carried out.

The state was to relocate over 160000 inmates to other prisons across the state while taking others in unused prisons that only require some renovation. (Steinhauer J).More prisons would translate to adequate space that will ensure effectiveness in prisons as correctional facilities. It is important to note that more prisons should come along with more and effective programs like on education, health facilities especially on drug and mental health and this will see the prison facilities attain their role as rehabilitation institutions.The major impediment to this strategy is the voting process which is likely to face opposing viewpoints with some arguing that the state as well as the federal government at large has various programs or projects that spending more finances on prisons or rather criminals may not go well with some. (Blumstein and Wallman  ). The argument here would be that the tax payer’s money should be spent on more important objective like on health care as well as education. (William 115).

V REVIEWSAlbert Blumstein and John Wallman. 2000. The crime Drop in America: CambridgeUniversity press.

Chapter 4: the limited importance of prison expansion talks of the limited importance of expanding the current prisons as a way of resolving the overcrowding problem in prisons. Cites the numerous projects like health care and education that the federal government has before it.Diivlio John, J and Piehl Morrison. ‘Does prison pay? The stormy national debate over the cost effectiveness of imprisonment. Brookings Review. Fall 1991 P 30Diivlio and Morrison argue that prison overcrowding is the major cause for the ineffectiveness in the prison systems today. The increasing numbers of prisoners failed to match the government funding a factor that saw the prisons ineffective as some inmates left the prisons worse than they were when they were when they got there.

 Levilt Stephen. The effect of prison size on crime rates. Evidence from prison overcrowding litigation. The quarterly journal of economics. 1996.  p340Stephen argues that the increased rates of recidivism are to be blamed on the high rates or level of prison overcrowding which makes the prisons ineffective. He argues that chances of prisoners committing crime on release to the societies are high especially for the younger inmates a proof that in prisons inmates acquire bad traits in prisons.Spelman William.

The limited importance of prison expansion in the crime drop in America, Cambridge university press.  2000. p 115William opposes the construction of more prisons with on the basis that it will not be an effective approach to handle or rather resolves the overcrowding problem in prisons.Kuppers D and Terry. Prison Madness.

The mental health crisis behind bars and what we must do about it. 1999Terry and Kuppers highlight the problem of identification especially for those with mental problems. They also suggest that there is need to reform the current systems to make them more effective. 


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