When thinking of how America is leading the world the number of incarcerated citizens per capita does not come to mind. America is considered to be the greatest country in the world. It is known for its fight for freedom and its triumph in maintaining it. Because of this many Americans take pride in the country they have been apart of shaping just as they should. However, in recent years problems have arisen that have taken some of its beauty away. One of those is the shocking amount of people who are imprisoned. There are several causes for the sudden overpopulation in Americas jails but a problem like this is not only one that is embarrassing to our country but is also one that could possibly be eased with a few minor changes to the United States jail system. In order for there to be a positive change incarceration must be brought to light as an issue instead of being ignored and neglected as it has been in the past.
Over the past twenty to thirty years the United States incarceration rate has gradually been climbing to its present day rate of 738 incarcerated citizens per 100,000 in the population. That number is 153% higher than Russia who is 2nd in line with the most imprisoned citizens and a whopping 2000% higher than countries such as Nigeria and Nepal (Hartney 2). The problem with this nations incarceration rate is not due to the amount of crime that goes on, “For some crimes, the US has higher crime rates than other countries, but not at levels that explain the high rates—and costs—of its current use of incarceration” (Hartney 5). The United States is also at fault for having the highest minority incarceration rates having three times as many women imprisoned than any other nation. The minority problem doesn’t stop at the women but Latinos composed 19% of Americas prison population while African Americans make up 41% (“More”). The other potent issue with this problem is that it is not being considered as one and the rates are continuously growing. Jails are so overcrowded that they are even able to fully serve their purpose of rehabilitation and discipline. A sentence to prison is an act of punishment for a crime but with that should come an opportunity for a positive and lasting change but it is only possible when each inmate is more than a number. In order to reverse the damage the reasons behind the problem must be identified.
One of the biggest reasons for such a spike in the amount of imprisoned persons is the directly proportional rise in the use of drugs. Drugs have always been apparent in our society but they have never played such a role as they do now. In response to the growth in the drug community, political and social leaders like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan began to emphasize the issue and actively support the “War on Drugs” because of the association with drugs and crime (Cummings 417-418). The issue here is that the prisons began to fill up with non-violent crime offenses particularly from those minority groups. To this day nonviolent crime offenders make up a shockingly high 60% of prisoners. This also brings into question how is the jail time affecting those who are only in for minor offences. The time they are serving could potentially be worsening the matter because treating them as violent criminals could turn their behavior into such (Bloom). The question is what can there be done to reduce the amount of citizens in jails.
The first and easiest way to lower the number of incarcerated citizens in America is to take the preventative step. There are certain initiatives taken and programs that can be put into place that can prevent incarceration by preventing the behavior that results in breaking the law. The majority of the people who are imprisoned come from very harsh backgrounds and have been through hardships in life that they were not in an environment that was nurturing to them or that helped them handle their issues in a healthy way. By targeting those people and offering support...
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