Prison Overcrowding

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Prison Overcrowding

Prison overcrowding is a problem largely attributed to the increase of drug convictions. Decades of tough-on-crime laws coupled with minimal financing for treatment programs have left prisons overcrowded and under funded. With the advent of crack cocaine and the response of a scared nation President Ronald Reagan declared a war on drugs in 1982 (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2009). In 1987 congress implemented mandatory minimum sentencing effectively increasing the time served for drug offenses. The war on drugs has succeeded in increasing the amount of drug offenders incarcerated. In 1985 the average state drug offense sentence was 13 months, in 2002 that number jumped to 48 months. The government’s efforts to succeed have come at a high cost. State budgets and prison populations have exceeded their respective maximums, although crime rates and drug abuse numbers have dropped, the number of inmates incarcerated continues to rise.

A possible solution to the overcrowding issue within prison is to insist a mandatory minimum law reform. This solution would be aimed at not only reducing the amount of time spent in the corrections system but also increasing the amount of drugs needed to qualify for the offense. Currently in the state of Kentucky if you sell a half a gram of cocaine you could get a possible sentence of 5-10 years for a class C felony; a possible alternative to this sentence is currently being considered. Under the possible new policy an offender would have to sell more than 4 grams of cocaine for the same class C felony and would face a possible sentence of 1-5 years (Drug Courts 2010). Reforming mandatory minimums would not only help to reduce the prison and jail populations but also offer relief for corrections budgets nation wide.

Decriminalization is another possible solution to overcrowding prisons and jails. Decriminalization is the act of removing most laws that now apply to drug use and abuse. The...
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