The subject of prison overcrowding has been an issue for many years. It is not just the prisons that are overcrowded but also the county correctional facilities. In the U.S.A. today 1 in nearly 100 Americans are currently incarcerated (“Alec”, 2014). The reasons that the numbers are so high are due to the many different laws and strategies that have been put into place to try and stop crime. Laws such as “The three strikes law” that California implemented calls for mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders and New York’s “Broken window” stagey that calls for all crimes big or small to be prosecuted. These are good in theory but can also cause the prison system to be over loaded with offenders. In an effort to provide an example of overcrowding I chose the state of Tennessee to look at their inmate numbers and how the lack of space causes the overcrowding. There are 14 prisons in the state of Tennessee, 11 of them are run by the Department of Corrections and three are run by private companies. Each facility is up to 90% capacity and currently there are 20,476 people incarcerated in Tennessee prisons (“Alec”, 2014). There are 759 correction officer employed though out these prisons, and as you can see by the number there is an abundance of inmates compared to the amount of officers able to patrol this beat.
In looking at the statistics one must not just look at current offenders that are serving time, also the offenders that are out on parole and probation. In the state of Tennessee alone there are 13,546 people on parole and 57,234 people on probation (“Alec”, 2014). There are only 759 officers for all these offenders. This number is where a lot of the influx of inmates comes from. The offenders that become inmates are not just due to fresh crimes. They are more often than not offenders that have reoffended or violated probation or parole. It is not just the prison facilities that are overcrowded; it is also the county corrections facilities or otherwise known as the county jails. As a former corrections officer I saw the overcrowding first hand, in a jail that was made to house 180 inmates, there are currently to date 279 people taking up space in this jail. There is a small population of inmates with in this facility that are awaiting a bed in prison, so they are staying in the county jails due to the fact they cannot move on to the prison system.
They are serving TDOC time with the county; due to this jail being overcrowded they will often ask other jails that are within a certain radius to take inmates for safe keeping. This then transfers the inmate from one county jail to another, causing overcrowding for them. It is just they are less over crowded then the jail asking for the move. As discussed earlier, the new laws enacted and strategies put into place are done to prevent offenders from continuing to offend. It is used almost as a scare tactic; however most offenders that have more than one offense on their record are not unfamiliar with jail and trouble. They have more than likely been in and out of correctional facilities since they were young. I think for a slim few these laws and strategies are effective. I also feel that there are not enough programs to rehabilitate offenders; if the idea is to keep these people out of jail then society has to help them become a respectable part of it. In order for these programs to work research shows they much include; academic education, vocational education, moral recognition therapy, reasoning and rehabilitation, cognitive restructuring, cognitive behavioral treatment for sex offenders, behavioral treatment for sex offenders, surgical treatment for sex offenders, multi-system therapy, drug courts, drug treatment in the community they live, incarceration based drug treatment (“Analyzing the Effectiveness of Rehabilitation,” 2009).
There must be a curriculum to these programs; the effort put forth to succeed must be done by the offender. There are many people in the prison system that with the correct amount of reconditioning can become law abiding citizens. One such program in the state of Tennessee is called Tennessee Reentry Collaborative, this program that was established in 2004 and works directly with The Tennessee Department of Corrections. Through the establishment of this program, smaller programs were formed that are local to all surrounding prisons and county jails. This program works closely with The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Children Services, Department of Veteran Affairs and many other agencies with in the state. These programs work together to establish regulations and rules that the programs must follow (“Tennessee Department Of Corrections”, 2014). Another program that is located in Tennessee is called “Take One.
This program enables the community to take control of the rehabilitation of offenders. The program Take One main purpose to the have individual organizations agree to mentor just one returning offender and his/her family for a period of one year. The offender is given an assessment and after they are classified the organization that chooses to help them with their rehabilitation begins to meet with the offender. This is usually about one year prior to release. Unlike some offenders, there are many that once their time is served they have no obligation to see a parole or probation officer. So once back in to society they have no guidance. This program helps keep them on track and continuing to get them the help they need to keep on the right path (“Tennessee Department Of Corrections”, 2014).
ALEC. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.alec.org/initiatives/prison-overcrowding/prison-overcrowding-tennessee/ Analyzing the Effectiveness of Rehabilitation. (2009, May). , (), . Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1160&context=srhonorsprogTennessee Department of Corrections. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.tn.gov/correction/rehabilitative/trec.html