Prison Overcrowding

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Renee Walker
Colorado Technical University Online
Phase 3 Individual Project
Professor Christopher Marco
March 11, 2013

A significant amount of people are being incarcerated in the United States than any other nation in the world. According to the Pew Center, it was reported that there were an astounding one in every 100 adults behind bars in 2008, and many belief it is because the criminal justice system has incarcered their way out for so long, that federal and state prisons and county jails are being bombarded with crisis levels of overcrowding (Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc., 2013). Researchers have also predicted that the situation will continue to get worse because operating budgets are severely being cut, and funding to build new facilities are null. Current projections revealed in 2011, that the United States prison population has increased a 13 percent, which is triple the growth of the entire population as a whole and the cost to support that increase be detrimental to the American taxpayers as well as local and state budgets in excess of $27.5 billion according to AMS (2013). This paper will attempt to explain the importance of prison overcrowding to the criminal justice system and discuss the various issues, problems and/or policies concerning prison overcrowding.

A Review of the Literature
Most aptly defined as a situation in which the number of people confined in prison is greater than the capacity of the prison to provide adequately for the physical and psychological needs of the confined persons is known as prison overcrowding. It is a feature of many systems of criminal justice throughout the world and can cause vital issues and concerns for “governments, communities, prisoners, and their families” according to (Griffiths, Murdoch, and Phil, 2009). Considered the most punitive country in the world, the United has the world’s highest incarceration rate with more than 2.3 million people incarcerated. Currently there are an estimated 748 inmates per 100,000 population and the numbers continue to rise according to Parole Reform (2010 ¶ 2). The three strike law, the economy, and the war on drugs is some of the reasons for the problems to prison overcrowding. This literature review will discuss these reasons and the problems that raise concern for overcrowded prisons. The adoption of the three strike law by many states undoubtedly has affected prison populations because of the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony offense conviction and will continue to cause the overcrowding of prisons for years to come. Some states prisons are operating at twice the capacity design and the law believes that getting career criminals off the streets is good for public policy; however, many have argued the three strikes law is cruel and unusual punishment and essentially causes the problems of prison overcrowding. The prison population is also affect by the downward spiral of the economy due to no jobs in society for individuals that have been convicted of serious crimes. When an individual has been incarcerated numerous times for various offenses and have to re-enter into a society that is suffering economically, more likely than not, these individuals will end up back in the judicial system consistently due to lack of employment. Furthermore, parolees also contribute to prison overcrowding because when legitimate employment cannot be found, they will return to illegitimate means, thus resulting in being re-incarcerated. According to the National Drug Control Program [ONDCP], also contributing to prison overcrowding problem is the war on drugs mission that has been enforced by law agencies across the country in cracking down on the offenders of drugs and reported data that shows half of state and federal inmates used drugs during the commitment of their offense(2011 ¶ 5)....