14 December 2013
Overcrowding in American Jails and Prisons: An Overview of the Issue and Possible Solutions
The issue of overcrowding in American jails and prisons is not unheard of. It is frequently discussed amongst politicians and American citizens alike. This is a controversial issue considering the large number of different opinions many people have. Though the issue is certainly acknowledged, it is rare that a feasible solution is discussed.
According to Vincent Tompkins, one of the many editors in American Decades, most Americans chose to not dwell on the growing crime problem during the 1950s. This was evident through the increase in prison population, which, by the end of the decade, was 22,492 men and women in federal penitentiaries, and 185,021 in state facilities. Tompkins and the rest of the editors compare the amount of prisoners to the size of a city like Tulsa, Oklahoma to put the issue during the 1950s into perspective. However, the amount of prisoners were not the only problem the prison system was faced with. In 1952 alone, there were twenty riots in various federal and state penitentiaries (Tompkins 242).
David S. Clark, the editor of the Encyclopedia of Law and Society: American and Global Perspectives, describes overcrowded prisons as, “a breach of United Nations and other international standards that require that states treat prisoners with respect to their inherent dignity.” Clark calls attention to what follows overcrowding, including restricted living space, poor conditions of hygiene, poor sanitation arrangements, less time available for outdoor activities, etc. He claims the result of these conditions are an increase in violence, including suicide and self-injury (Clark 1177).
According to “Equal Justice Initiative,” an organization that works toward ending mass incarceration, the U.S. incarcerates more of their citizens in comparison to any other country in the world. Jail and prison populations have increased from...
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