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The War on Mass Incarceration in America

Categories: Mass Incarceration

In the United States of America, the prison system is overpopulated with more than 2.3 million humans incarcerated or facing incarceration through the criminal justice system. As corporal punishment is one of the main forms of rehabilitation for those that commit crime. America has proven to have the largest prison population in the world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it was reported in 2018, out of every 100,000 people 698 people are incarcerated daily worldwide; with numbers reporting over 2.2 million Americans incarcerated or currently serving time in prisons as inmates.

(Bureau of Justice Statistics). Reports and studies also show that the operation of the justice system survives from over $100 billion of taxpayers hard earned money. (Danielle Kaeble and Mary Cowhig, BJS Statisticians ).

As the history of the United States of America began overturning and creating new laws in the 1970’s, there was a large increase within the prison system. The rate of incarceration started to reach high numbers in population. By the year of 2008 the United states prison system was already over 2 million (Wildeman and Western).

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This era has impacted over 150,000 families in America per year. Amongst these families the most to be affected and in daily risk of facing incarceration are minorities. It is unfortunate that the rate of incarceration has impacted many African American and Hispanic males. As this creates overwhelming disadvantages in families and communities creating racial bias and continued generational consequences of imprisonment, (Loader and Sparks). As the war on drugs act became a huge impact on families and creating life time sentences became an era of oppression and the beginning of what most believe is the new Jim Crow (Dyszlewski, Harrison-Cox and Ortiz).

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As the war on drugs was created to reinforce illegal searching and racial profiling, this led to nothing more than racism and false imprisonment for mainly African American men. These numbers spiked to the incarceration rate of controlling one-third African American population (Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. Columbus: The New Press, 2010.)

When looking over the obvious, it is also believed that the war on drugs act became a direct act of enslaving those of a profile. Regardless of weather they are committing crimes or not. These new laws allow law enforcement agencies to harass, racial profile and arrest any and every African or Mexican American male. When reading the Jim Crow Laws; it is easy to identify cruelty and unfair acts of the legal system. As the legal system encouraged hate among social ethnic groups as this was a continued form of segregation. (Alexander)

Over the year’s researchers have found that inmate society has become overpopulated as the growth continues to spike. Yet, it is believed that most inmates who have served a minimum sentence for their crime will soon be released to help with overpopulated prisons (Neyfakh). However, there is no discussion of civil rights for blacks and inmates in the prison system; as every law has been passes without addressing mass incarceration. As policies and proceedings have been placed in order by President Ronald Reagan with the war on drugs act. This was the start of a new era; as the war on incarceration became reality for most. These plans continued through the Bush administration and passes on in 1994 by President Clinton. As the incarceration era has continued over decades, with misguided laws which allows white American lighter sentencing for the same crime as a minority. The direct results of these laws have affected mainly black families and other minorities, as their families become victims of incarceration.

In the year 2019 it was reported that five percent of America’s population, has been affected in some way by the criminal justice system and 25 percent of minority males serve in prison population. “Recent studies show from the year of 1970 to 2020 the prison population has increased by 700 percent¬. It is reported that every one out of three blacks Americans are expect to be incarcerated during his lifetime…” (Pettit and Western)

As this is a mirror of bondage in America with clear understanding of racial division. Since the reconstruction of civilization, the African Americans people have continuously fought many battles with a hope of stabilizing equality and freedom. It is so unfortunate to see some innocent black men, killed or incarcerated by police that are bias towards them. “You Raise Them, We Cage Them” a direct quote enforced by Ferguson police (Berman and Lowery).

It was reported by “The Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review” that from the year 1985 to 1995, a new prison was built weekly. (Bryan Stevenson). As most of those incarcerated where of men from low-income communities, lacking the tools needed for success. As quoted in the book “The New Jim Crow” Speaks about the less advantages of the low-income community and higher incarceration rates (Alexander). When analyzing this, it is apparent that this is not just a war on one race or another but a war of incarceration on all Americans that may be a part of a low-income community or income level system. As the disadvantages may lead to violence, low functioning students, arrest records in teens, poor communication skills and lack of ability to obtain employment. Leaving low-income students 4 times more likely of being at risk and having police contact. The problem with this is that all persons from low income communities are not all bad. Yet, they are all placed in a category of being less than. It is so unfortunate as all people should be treated equal with mutual respect. I believe there are many things that need to be addressed in the criminal justice system and how the laws are written toward social groups of people.

As we know nothing is ever perfect and the laws of the criminal justice system will always have many problems. As we are under a legislation of a broken system that would rather address issues with mass incarceration rather than offering opportunity for change. I believe that development and chance for change programs would actual help with the issue of mass incarceration, while saving taxpayers dollars. As we learn over time through presidential administrations that bail out systems with no real plan in place can only create more problems. As a result, we find that many people become victims of the justice system and becoming inmates at some point in their lifetime. In most alleged cases, innocent people become victimized and traumatized throughout this process. I believe it is best to keep an eye on the justice system and to be apart of the process. I believe it completely important for people to actively get involved and take a stand when facing these issues. Just as many great leaders and civil rights activist have pressed upon these same issues, in fight of creating changes in our country. As mass incarceration is a form of history repeating itself. Such as, marching, walks, protests, shut ins, incarceration and deaths. This was all in attempt to be heard by the supreme court of justice and as a step in the right direction toward freedom. In the year 2020, with the process of a new world order; it seems almost impossible for Americans to focus on justice. It seems as if the American people have forgotten about equality and justice as we are all trying to survive with our families in our daily lives. How do we help the issue of mass incarceration in our country?

America has continuously survived and conquered several life changing events as we have already come a long way and are continuing to develop, yet we still need to take the necessary steps in a better direction that supports all. I believe that this war on mass incarceration begins with a plan of action to change low income communities. By offering first time felon programs that will help train for skilled jobs with fair wages, providing community outreach trainnings, interacting with community partners and providing youth service for youth to help place them on a better path. I believe there should be a system that judges certain crimes which will allow chances of exploring other opportunities before incarceration. It is important for parents to have support and for parents to empower and teach their children right from wrong with discipline that will help avoid incarceration.

In conclusion, I believe it is important for all people to understand how serious the power of the criminal justice system is and how to avoid mass incarceration at all cost. As we need to all come together a lead our world by examples of sharing the responsibility of creating change as mass incarceration is responsible for obtaining a large portion of taxpayer’s dollars.


Alexander, Michelle. ‘How mass incarceration turns people of color into permanent second-class citizens.’ The American Prospect (n.d.). 21 5 2020.

Berman, Mark and Wesley Lowery. Ferguson police say Michael Brown was a robbery suspect, identify Darren Wilson as officer who shot him. n.d. 22 5 2020.

Danielle Kaeble and Mary Cowhig, BJS Statisticians . ‘U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics.’ CNN (2018): 1-14.

Dyszlewski, Nicole P., Lucinda Harrison-Cox and Raquel M. Ortiz. ‘Mass Incarceration: An Annotated Bibliography.’ Roger Williams university law review 21.2 (2015): 11. 21 5 2020. .

Loader, Ian and Richard Sparks. ‘Beyond mass incarceration.’ The Good Society 23.1 (2014): 114-120. 21 5 2020. .

Mack, Kenneth W. ‘Law, Society, Identity and the Making of the Jim Crow South: Travel and Segregation on Tennessee Railroads, 1875-1905.’ Law and Social Inquiry-journal of The American Bar Foundation 24.2 (1999): 377-409. 21 5 2020. .

Neyfakh, Leon. Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? n.d. 21 5 2020. .

Pettit, Becky and Bruce Western. ‘Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.’ American Sociological Review 69.2 (2004): 151-169. 22 5 2020. .

Wildeman, Christopher and Bruce Western. ‘Incarceration in Fragile Families.’ The Future of Children 20.2 (2010): 157-177. 21 5 2020.

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The War on Mass Incarceration in America. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved from

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