Overcrowding and Overuse of Imprisonment in the United States

Overcrowding in the United States correctional system is a major issue and as time goes on this problem is only growing. Though only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States, it is home to 25 percent of the world’s prison population, China with over one billion people has an incarceration rate of 118 for every 100,000 people, compared to America’s 655. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate at 1,079 for every 100,000 people, States like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia follow very close behind.

Roughly 2.2 million adults were in America’s prisons and jails at the end of 2016. If the US prison population was a city, it would be among the country’s 10 largest. More people are behind bars in America than there are living in major cities such as Philadelphia or Dallas. This problem rapidly increased during the 1970s and 1990s as the federal government started the “war on drugs,” and also a series of “get tough” policies were enacted in the 1980s and into the 1990s, such as truth in sentencing laws, mandatory minimums, mandatory drug sentences, a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and the three-strikes law, this meant leaving states to manage to overcrowd with limited funds.

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States that are better off such as New York or Texas they don’t see a dramatic effect on their overall budget from overcrowding.

As you look at poorer states such a Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Alabama, these states are cutting almost everything from officers pay to benefit programs for the inmates in order to combat the overpopulation problem they are facing and even going as far to cut money going to state programs such as Education.

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The prison population across the United States started off low in the late 1970s, with most states having about 100 to 250 prisoners per 100,000 people. In the late 1990s, incarceration has increased to more than 500 prisoners per 100,000 people in some states. In the 2000s, every state in America had seen its imprisonment rate rise dramatically. Roughly 688,000 people are released from state and federal prisons. This adds up to the around 12 million people who cycle through local jails each year, revealing an “enormous jail churn’.430,000 people who at any given moment are occupying local cells awaiting trial and conviction. The rest are being held for minor offenses with sentences under a year. Unfortunately, a lot of these people were being locked up for nonviolent drug offenses. Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996. More than half of federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges. That’s more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges and roughly 4 of 5 of those arrests were only for possession. Between October 2012 and September 2013, 27.6 percent of drug offenders were locked up for simple crimes related to marijuana. Sadly those problem doesn’t just happen in an adult prison.

The data also exposes disturbing realities about juvenile detention. For example, as the study reports, “there are almost 15,000 children behind bars whose “most serious offense” wasn’t anything that most people would consider a crime.”[3] Here’s the breakdown: almost 12,000 children are confined for “technical violations,” or infringements related to their probation or parole and over 3,000 children are behind bars for “status” offenses, which are, “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility,” as the U.S. Department of Justice explains. Even though there has been a drop in the overall federal prison population, due in large part to a 2014 decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce sentences for drug crimes. And while some states have significantly reduced their prison populations over the years, others continue to set records for the number of people being locked up. A few states with notable drops, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, pushed significant policy changes, such as reclassifying felonies as misdemeanors and giving more discretion to sentencing judges. There are very simple solutions to this problem that the United States has been facing for decades. One of the easiest ways to combat overcrowding while also not giving people an “easy pass” is to utilize our probation system.

There are many beneficial advantages of using this type of release program, the most important being how much money this can save states. North Carolina department of corrections released its Cost of Prison Incarceration for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. Their Yearly Average cost per inmate was roughly $36,000, meanwhile, the average Cost of Community Supervision was $1,938 per offender. If states started to use their probation system more often they would be saving millions of valuable tax payer’s dollars each year. Some of this money can go back into valuable prison programs to better help inmates and this money can go back into state programs such as education spending and improve their overall state, sadly states will cut and pull money from programs in order to make more fund for the overcrowding issue they face. Another benefit that comes out of using probation more is first-time lower-level offenders wouldn’t have to be exposed to a prison setting which wouldn’t benefit and will more than likely lead to them being incarcerated again in the future.

Many more benefits will follow close behind. No matter how much funding and time we spend trying to fix our correctional system, there will always be problems like anything in life nothing can be perfect. Overcrowding is just another issue the United States is choosing to turn a blind eye to. Corrections will always be a dirty business, that doesn’t mean we solve problems with very simple solutions. When you have overpaid people sitting behind a desk all day making the rules and policies, you can expect these types of problems. The only way Overcrowding along with many other problems to be solved is to top looking at these problems on paper and actually see how these issues are affecting the Staff, inmates, and community. Until these people with all the power to change these problems actually look at the issues our correctional systems are facing nothing will get done.

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Overcrowding and Overuse of Imprisonment in the United States. (2020, Nov 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/overcrowding-and-overuse-of-imprisonment-in-the-united-states-essay

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