Overcrowding in United States Prisons
State prison overcrowding has become a very detrimental problem over the last few decades. After being overlooked for so long, what we are left with is an ineffective correctional system that needs reformation. The problem has been growing, possibly even since the first correctional facility was created. As cities started to grow, there needed to be more laws. Along with more laws came more offenders. Even though prison is designed to punish criminals, it often causes the underlying goal of rehabilitation to be neglected. In the nineteenth century, the legal system introduced things such as probation, indeterminate sentencing, and parole. The intention was to rehabilitate and reform the offenders, but it was too hard to implement. Probation and parole violations also added to the overcrowding problem. A large number of prisons were built or expanded in the 1930s, which helped to create jobs during the Great Depression. However, building more prisons only expanded a failing system. Over time, it just increased operating costs and the cost of housing each prisoner. By the 1970s, the “war on drugs” brought another time period of increased imprisonment. Politicians used “ridding neighborhoods of dangerous drug use” to gain support and votes. Americans supported this, and there was a huge wave of nonviolent criminals into correctional facilities nationwide. No significant reformation has been made to the penal system since the seventies, which shows it truly is an overlooked issue. Today, the “war on drugs” continues, with an unprecedented number of low level criminals incarcerated. Not only is this a major cause of the overpopulation, but these prisons are not living up to their original purpose. The justice system intends to protect society from these criminals, most of which are not dangerous. It would not be such a problem if the average cost to house one prisoner wasn’t $26,000 a year, with some states being...
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