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Prison Crowding

Prison Crowding

In an in-depth research paper on Prison Crowding, begin by discussing how the populations increase has caused problems in prisons such as putting all types of prisoners together and many others.

In the last two decades prison crowding has become a serious problem at local, state, and federal levels. Prison crowding is directly associated with get tough polices that led to mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent and violent offenders alike. The overcrowding problem is one faced by facilities that house all types of prisoners, including women and juveniles. In recent years a variety of programs have been devised to solve the problem of prison crowding. These solutions include:

Despite these measures the United States continues to face major problems with crowding in prison facilities. Moreover, crowding has led to additional problems which include increases in inmate-on-inmate and guard-on-inmate violence; a lack of resources to meet the basic needs of those incarcerated, and public backlash when prisoners released early commit new crimes.

Overcrowding in prison and jail facilities has been a major problem in the U.S. for over two decades. In 2003 the prison population in the United States topped two million. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics stated local jails increased in population by 5.4 percent; state prisons by 1 percent, and the federal inmate population increased by 2.8 percent during the preceding year. As of June 30, 2002 the total number of incarcerated individuals in the U.S. was 2,015,475. By the year 1995 the number of incarcerated prisoners was triple that of 1980 figures. The prison population reached its highest level ever in the new century despite a 33.4 percent reduction in the violent crime rate and a 25.4 percent decrease in property crime rates.

The United States continues to have the highest rate of incarcerated individuals in the world. Currently there are 702 prisons for every 100,000 residents. Approximately 4.8 percent of all African American males are incarcerated, as are 1.7 percent of the Hispanic population and 0.6 percent of whites.

When prisons are overcrowded, environments become increasingly painful and harmful and subsequently force released inmates to carry the adverse effects suffered back into society. The evidence demonstrates that overcrowding increased inmates' negative affect, elevates their blood pressure, increases physical and mental illness, and leads to higher rates of disciplinary violations. Further, budgetary constraints from a growing inmate population have led to a reduction in educational, vocational, and treatment programs and have increased the use of "forceful, extreme, and potentially damaging techniques of institutional control". The end result is a growing population of chronically idle inmates with no effective outlets and a perpetuation of a vicious cycle. Current approaches to dealing with overcrowding have proven to be utter failures and, instead, have increased the harmfulness and danger of prisons themselves while failing to meet even the most basic needs of inmates. Further, chronic prison overcrowding has a trickle-down effect into county jails and courts, thus creating overcrowding problems and backlogs.

As mentioned, overcrowding and associated budgetary constraints have led to the elimination of a number of prison educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programs. As a result, overcrowded facilities frequently fail to address the most basic educational needs of inmates, painfully illustrated by evidence demonstrating that seven out of 10 inmates were either completely or functionally illiterate while in prison and remained so after release-as well as when subsequently rearrested and reincarcerated. Further, the overcrowding problem translates to very long wait lists for inmates to obtain prison jobs and exacerbates chronic idleness for those who are unable to be assigned jobs. The overburdened system has also resulted in inadequate screening procedures which result in a large number of mentally-ill inmates not receiving adequate treatment and being housed in the general population. Finally, chronic overcrowding and longer sentences have resulted in a substantial increase in elderly inmates and the associated increasing healthcare costs for this population have further impacted other programs.

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