For decades now, prison overcrowding has become a problem all over the United States. Because of this overcrowding, many individuals are let out of prison before their sentence is complete which poses a threat to the community and society as a whole. However, while that is valid, the real threat is directly to those who are released before they are fully prepared to become functioning members of society once again and who will ultimately end up back in prison because of this. There are many universal causes for this overcrowding of prisons which may vary depending on which state is examined. Some of these causes include recidivism, which is caused by the lack of treatment and educational betterment programs, the “tough on crime” approach, the mandatory minimum requirement and the Three Strikes Law.
Prisons have been overcrowding for many years and both Connecticut and California know of this issue all too well. This issue in Connecticut reaches “a crisis point about every 10 years.” (“Factors Impacting Prison Overcrowding”) This lets the public know that the problem has been going on for so many years, yet, not much is being done about it. Many inmates suffer due to the poor living conditions, especially when no solutions are enacted. As well, in California, their 33-prison network was designed to hold about 80,000 prisoners, but has held more than twice that during some years. (Rutten) This means that not every inmate receives equal attention whether that is in the form of healthcare or educational programs. How are inmates supposed to then become functioning members of society?
One of the reasons why prisons are becoming so overcrowded is due to the fact that recidivism is such a huge issue. Recidivism is defined by Merriam Webster as a “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior.” This means that because convicted criminals are not trained on how to properly function in society once they are released, they resort to the only method in which they know how to survive: more crime. Two-thirds of convicts who are released from prison are expected to return to prison within three years for committing a crime similar to or worse than what they were previously convicted of. (Moore) This last resort method occurs to most individuals due to the fact that prisons do not provide inmates with educational programs to improve their cognitive abilities or treatment programs to aid them in recovery. In addition to this and due to the overcrowding, inmates sometimes need to be transferred from one prison to other, often times in different states. According to an article in the New York Times titled, States Export Their Inmates as Prisons Fill by Solomon Moore, “moving inmates from prison to prison disrupts training and rehabilitation programs and puts stress on tenuous family bonds… making it more difficult to break the cycle of inmates committing new crimes after their release.” Jeanne Woodford, a former corrections chief and ex-warden at San Quentin State Prison said, “We catch people and release them. We don’t do anything for them while they’re incarcerated and we’re really just disrupting their lives over and over again…” (Rothfeld) These two statements adequately portray the issue of overcrowding and its effects on the inmates contained within prisons all over the country. Without rehabilitation and educational programs, the recidivism rate will continue to grow and the cycle will never be broken.
Another reason why prisons are becoming so overcrowded is because of the “tough on crime” approach. This approach represents a set of policies, which allows punishment to be viewed as the only reasonable response to crime. (Defending Justice) “The affects of these policies are alarming,” according to Defending Justice: A Resource Kit, published by the Political Research Associates. “Local, state and federal governments have all adopted and...
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