Jail and Prison Overcrowding

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There have been numerous suggestions to try and help with jail and prison overcrowding. Some of these solutions are known as front-door solutions while others are known as back door solutions. Front door solutions to prison overcrowding are frequently directed at prosecutors and judges and the way that they handle offenders before and during sentencing. “Some observers suggest greater use of diversion and/or assignment to community service agencies, where some offenders may bypass the criminal justice system altogether and remain free within their communities.”(Champion, p 292) Some other possible front door soultions include greater use of probation by judges and recommendations of leniency from prosecutors with the emphasis on some form of restitution, community service, victim compensation, and/or fine as the primary punishment. Front door solutions also may include judges having an assigned fixed number of spaces they can fill in prison, with the hopes that by doing this only the most serious offenders will be incarcerated and it will narrow the crimes for which offenders can be incarcerated. . Cells allow a degree of privacy however, “when more than one is placed in a cell, which frequently happens due to overcrowding prisoners could at least on occasion, talk more openly and communication and interact amongst themselves.”(Johnson,p 50) “Some of the back-door proposals by observers include easing the eligibility criteria for early release or parole; the administrative reduction of prison terms, where the governor, or others shorten originally imposed sentences for certain offenders, modifying parole revocation criteria so as to encourage fewer parole violations and expanding the number of community programs such as mediation and including the use of intense supervised parole for more serious offender groups.”(Champion, p 293) Due to overcrowding and the violence it generates often the parole-eligible inmates have a lessened chance of actually receiving early release. “This is because there are far more inmates than self-help programs as only about 20% of prisoners in the United States are included in these programs. Even if a prisoner wants to be involved in services which can include individual counseling, vocational /technical or educational programs many are not as there are so many prisoners that must be accommodated that many are excluded. “Jails are not equipped to provide inmates with any vocational/technical and educational programs due to a number of reasons such as they do not have the space to offer such educational programming, inmates do not have parole or good time incentives and jail inmates are usually serving short term sentences that would interrupt any meaningful educational programming that might be contemplated. “(Champion, p 296) Even where these programs are available to inmates on a short term basis there has been no recidivism rates of graduates to those who have not participated in a program. “The rate of recidivism in the U.S. is estimated to be about two‐thirds, which means that two‐thirds of released inmates will be re‐incarcerated within three years.”( McKean &Ransford, p 4) The three components for programs in prison and for aftercare programs in the community that are most frequently cited as key to reducing recidivism include: substance abuse treatment, education and employment services.”( McKean, Ransford, 15) Government officials and community leaders are increasingly focusing on the need to improve services designed to assist released inmates. “Over twenty‐five years ago, the New York State Governor’s Special Committee on Criminal Offenders funded a review and reanalysis of studies on correctional programs that has had a strong impact in correctional circles. The study reported that “with few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism.” (McKean, Ransford, p 9) This idea however is...
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