Analysis of Mass Incarceration

Incarceration pertains to an individual being confined or imprisoned based on a crime committed. When it comes to the incarceration rate in the United States, we top the charts beating larger countries such as Russia, India, and China for having a higher incarceration rate globally. The Bureau of Justice reported in 2018 approximately 2.2 million adults were detained in jails or prisons. This implies for each 100,000 individuals living in the United States, around 655 of them are in jail. I will discuss the importance of reverse mass incarceration and give steps that will be needed in order to reform the judicial system in America.

While we continue to build more and more prisons in the United States, the rate of incarceration continues to rise.

We have seen many laws passed in ordered to get to the cause of mass incarceration such as; the War on Drugs, prostitution, rape, human trafficking, any and all laws based on violent crimes order to stop the war on crimes and create better communities.

Some of the laws implemented in these programs have put us as a Nation in mass incarceration crisis. We have individuals who are going to jail for longer periods than before. We as a country have a more punitive society, or have less imaginative judges and politicians, or more pronounced ethically- related social and economic injustices. The mass incarceration crisis has to stop in America by reducing jail time for minor offenses, technical parole violations, and offering alternatives to imprisonment.


Confined punishment dates back to biblical times in Jerusalem during the Old Testament.

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Cells were utilized to hold detainees until actual punishment was sentenced. These punishments resulted in death, being beaten, enslaved or in rather unusual cases indebted individuals were frequently tossed into account holders detainment facilities. These individuals stayed there until their contract of agreement was paid resulting in them regaining their freedom. The utilization of long haul imprisonment as a technique for legitimate discipline is a moderately current idea, stemming from the late eighteenth century.

The development of a regulated jail framework right now was planned as a philanthropic enhancement to the current punitive framework. This was projected to solely view jail as a more conscious option in contrast to the death penalty or expulsion or open embarrassment, and in addition a potential means for changing offenders so they could come back to society as upstanding residents. Prisons began in Western Europe with the objective of improving prisoners through work, discipline and self-reflection on crimes committed. Prisoners would spend long periods of time in isolation in order to reflect on wrong doings and penitent. The function of imprisonment changed functions between the biblical and the modern liberal democracies. The times at that time were different from how the disciplinary actions are handled in today’s society. Prisons these days may be better than they were decades ago, but the same pain, and anguish that was present in the older prisons still are present in today’s prison system. In the early 1900’s, the crime begin to spread due to prohibition back in the day. During these times “most prosecutors and judges dismissed felony cases between African Americans, as the public believed that inter-racial violence was a solution in itself” (Adler, 2015, p. 36).

The Jim Crow Law were laws that were state and local law that encourage racial segregation in the Southern region of the United States. The belief system of the Jim Crow law defines people of color as less than humans. The laws were created to separate public facilities, transportation, schools, neighborhoods, jails and restaurants. The legal system was filled with ex Confederate soldiers working as police and judges making it difficult for African Americans to win court cases and making sure they became victims to the Jim Crow laws. One of the most pivotal cases during the Jim Crow Law era was the Plessy V. Ferguson case. This particular case was about Homer Plessy who agreed to be arrested for refusing to move out of his seat on a train. Judge Ferguson upheld the law and the case of Plessy v. Ferguson slowly moved up to the Supreme Court. “In which the courts ruled the verdict to be “equal but separate” facilities were constitutional. The findings in the Jim Crow Laws contributed to 58 more years of legalized discrimination of people who were black and colored people in the United States. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson created “the OLEA or Office of Law Enforcement Assistance which was used to create training programs and do experiential surveillance techniques on low-income communities” (Hinton, 2015, p. 100). The training programs created in the OLEA were used to fight the war on crimes. For many years the unjust system has failed Americans.

The War on Drugs program was one of the most racist and systematic jailing of low-income citizens in America the world has seen. The War on Drugs started with the criminality of narcotics and marijuana. The type of drugs that were criminalized were mostly used by Blacks, minorities and immigrants. During the War on Drugs era the program was aimed toward mostly the Blacks and minorities, which came with profiling and discrimination when it came down to sentencing. In the 1990’s the DEA announced a plan to crack down on Plano, Texas’s drug problem and protect the inner city’s youth.

“Of the sixteen white teenagers who were charged with selling heroin and marijuana to high school students, a few agreed to a plea bargain and received probation or little jail time. Kingpins and drug dealers who were black or Hispanic tend to get mandatory- minimum sentencing of twenty years or life” (Lassiter, 2015). This particular program was the beginning to the upsurge to mass incarceration in the United States. In which many black males and females became the number one population for the prison systems in America. Hispanic males and females hold the number two population of the prison systems in America.

Parties Affected by Mass Incarceration

Having an imprisoned relative likewise contrarily influences the physical and psychological well-being of spouse and children. Detainment is a destabilizing power inside families; it meddles with the upkeep of sentimental associations and viable child rearing and makes it troublesome for families to give enthusiastic and social help to one another. Families encounter budgetary hardships and inconvenience when dealing with incarcerated relatives. They make payments to what is known as commissary, so that they can buy the things that they need and want while in prison.

Depending on where they are incarcerated, it may be costly to travel and to make visits because of the distance and to be able to talk to them by phone there is an extremely high phone charge. Other expenses may be incorporated as well such as the cost of a lawyer and having to be bonded out of jail. Like different parts of mass detainment, these impacts are more extraordinary for minority families and networks (Fornili, 2018, p.68). Challenges arise once a prisoner is released into a world they once knew. It is difficult finding employment with a background of multiple convictions and or just felonies, which makes it hard for a person to provide for their family. Incarceration may also contribute to the poverty rate as much as 20% in America.

On the other hand, our judicial system is flawed and inefficient. Often men and women who have not yet been convicted of a crime, sit in unsafe prison environments where there is overcrowding and understaffed jails waiting for their day in court. This happens most often in large urban areas. Take for example, in a Chicago jail an individual could serve more time simply waiting for trial than the sentence they would ultimately receive if found guilty. As a result, housing could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Let’s examine the case of John Bunn who spent 27 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. He was 14 years old when he went in. He was accused of killing and off-duty Ryker’s correction officer. He got his GED while in there. He went from fearful and intimidated to angry and bitter. It messed with his psyche. He had a mother and an aunt that this truly affected. It was a great day when he got exonerated. Some are not as lucky as Bunn. There have been unfortunate incidences where men or women who have been wrongfully accused and have not gotten their day in court. Some having experienced such trauma committed suicide, some finally get out and go back in because they now have a stigma, can’t get a job, or they simply don’t have what they need in order to cope.

Mass incarceration not only affects families and loved ones, but incarceration is concentrated mainly on minorities; African Americans and Latinos. “The rate of African American children parents incarcerated are seven and a half times more than likely of a Caucasian children parents who are incarcerated. The rate for Latino is two and a half times the rate of Caucasian children” (Clark, 2011). In the 90’s the rate of an African American male being arrested was a one in four chance and for a Caucasian male it was a one in twenty-five chance.

The effects of incarceration take a toll on male and female children because of the lack of adequate parental support in their lives. The lack of adequate parental support in their lives can cause intergenerational malaise. When a parent is incarcerated, children tend to lean toward unstable characteristics in their life. Examples of unstable characteristics you may see in a child will be anti-social behaviors, getting in trouble at school or getting in trouble with the law. Many of these unstable characteristics lead to other issues such as lack of sleep, depression, drugs and eventually mental health issues. Not only is this cause of mass incarceration also a negative effect on children and families but it also take a toll the United States.

The Summary and Proposals

Prison reform was created to help cut down the rate of incarcerations by introducing alternative ways to confine individuals especially those with mental health problems. This reform made it easier for prisoners to re-establish constitutional rights while in serving time. It also helped prisoners readjust to society upon release after serving long sentencing. One of the ways to help prisoners readjust is to put them in a continuum community for those in need. Secondly, to help prisoners readjust society could provide inmates with close coordination between the criminal justice system, healthcare services, and social protection. Third, our penal system could incorporate social reintegration programs in prison to prepare them upon release. This was also a catalyst make productive and effective changes to the penal system. Many organizations are already in pursuit to implement new ways on how the penal system is already set and change some of those grandfather laws which are still in place today. Those grandfather laws also hang over prisoner’s heads and part of the reason for the excessive sentencing they have received.

Today in America, we as tax-payers are spending way too much money in order to house, feed, and provide health-care for inmates. “The cost to house inmates in state and federal prison is $20,000 to $40,000 per inmate” (Hutcheson, 2018). The amount of inmates in our in jails is larger than some populations of some countries. “The American criminal justice system holds 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 1852 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals and prisons in the U.S. territories” (Wagner and Sawyer, 2018). There are also private corporations. Private corporations who run private prison systems are contracted through the government. While there may be many befits to private corporations to run a penal institution, they benefit our government by saving money. While there maybe various reasons for contracting through various private corporations, the main issue for doing so is that the fear of rights and fair treatment of inmates and people will be compromised.

The goals we are trying to reach must be advocated not only by the legislative system, but also by we the people of the United States of America. The prison system is run by corporations like the GEO Group or the Corrections Corporations of America in which are receiving substantial amounts of funding toward their corporations. “Companies combine generated over $2.53 billion in revenue in 2012” (The Economics for the American Prison System SmartAsset, 2018). Tax-payers are paying tons of cash to fund these private corporations that have violated constitutional rights of inmates. The bottom line is the US government needs to institute better health care for incarcerated individuals. Behind those walls exists many prisons with numerous impoverished conditions. Some of these facilities have hazardous drinking water, inadequate sanitation, unsafe food, inadequate nutrition and housing. Reasons for prisoners living in these conditions are that penal institutions are underfunded, under staffed, or sometime nonexistent. Women health issues are barely addressed. The goal for healthcare and living conditions among prisoners is for them to receive the same equivalence of healthcare as any other human being.


In conclusion, in talking about mass incarceration, crime is still viewed on an individual basis. We blame it on disrespect for the law, living in poverty, bad decision making, bad and single parenting. We ignore the mass part of it while only trying to solve individual level solutions. The healing process, the treatment for mental illness all gets ignored.

Nevertheless, the mass incarceration crisis prison reform and reverse mass incarceration are in the process of meeting goals to change the way that punishments are given to individuals. We are now in pursuit to keep disadvantaged youth from engaging in violence and entering into the judicial systems. Another thing we are pursuing is to reduce the incarceration rate for criminals with non-violent cases and also support the formerly incarcerated as they leave the criminal justice system and work to re-engage with the labor force and communities. So far, California is one of the states to initiate reduce penalties for illicit drug use and petty theft.

“The state of California also reclassified possession of heroin, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs and theft of $950 or less as a misdemeanor” (Kearney, 2016). If other states in America implemented this program, the prison rates amongst the various races will be dropped tremendously. With progression and improvement within the judicial system, it could bring focus on areas such as housing, education and healthcare for those who are living in poverty. We would also be able to break the norm of incarceration in our society. Due to the incarceration impact on an individual’s record, it creates roadblocks that lead right back into gaining an illegal source of income, which ultimately furthers the cycle of imprisonment.

There are many components that can lead to an unbalanced incarceration rate but in order for us to properly address the issues at hand; we have to understand that it begins with lack of educational services. “Any intriguing questions for anyone interested in the “new penology” is why theoretical discourse on the causes of the mass incarceration movement have proliferated but accounts of the reversal of this movement are strikingly absent” (Delaney, 2005).

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Analysis of Mass Incarceration. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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