The Major Challenges Facing the Criminal Justice System

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The federal prison system has been unable to keep pace with the steady flow of inmates pouring into its facilities during the past five years, despite adding space for thousands of new offenders, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The report also found that the Bureau of Prisons has already surged to 39 percent above capacity and is projected to jump to more than 45 percent above its limits by 2018 (GAO, 2012). According to a The New York Times article written by Adam Liptak (2011), overcrowding in prisons rose to its highest levels since 2004, when federal prisons were 41 percent beyond capacity. As more and more inmates are crammed into ever tightening living spaces increases in violent incidents are surly going to rise. “Overcrowding in prisons negatively effect the mental and physical health of both the inmates and prison staff” (GAO, 2012).

Inmates in overcrowded prisons have a higher rate of illness and mental health issues than the general population. For example, an estimated 37% of inmates have hypertension where as only 1% of the un-incarcerated population suffer from this disease. The alarming prevalence of communicable diseases like hepatitis C, TB, and HIV/AIDS among prisoners poses a serious public health problem. Overcrowded conditions and poor health education in prisons, as well as weak community-based public health programs, compound the problem. Also, since condoms and bleach are illegal in prisons, many inmates who are victims of rape or engage in consensual sex are at risk of transmitting diseases in prison and after they are released back to their communities. Even those with short-term sentences can become infected in prison with a contagious disease. The links between drug use, hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, and incarceration help explain the rise in infectious diseases in our nation’s prisons. Other studies done have found that a high prison population has a direct, negative effect on the psychological state of...
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