Jails are overcrowded. Furthermore, jails often function as "schools for crime" in which petty lawbreakers learn to become hardened criminals. Of course, it is necessary to put violent criminals in jail in order to protect others. But society would benefit if nonviolent criminals received punishments other than jail sentences. We can see examples of overcrowded jails all over the US and even out of the US. "California's prison system, originally designed for 100,000 inmates, currently houses 173,000 inmates and has resorted to housing approximately 17,000 inmates in temporary beds in locations like prison gymnasiums"(Sung). In December of 2006, California's state prisons' 70% overcapacity with 173,000 inmates led US District Judge Lawrence Karlton to warn that if in 6 months the situation wasn't resolved, he would order the release of prisoners before their sentences were finished. High state officials scrambled to find remedies to this problem. A $8.3 billion dollar program to construct facilities to provide 53,000 new prison and jail beds was approved as an effort to remedy the state's overcrowded prisons. There are also plans to increase rehabilitation in an attempt to reduce California's 60 percent reconviction rate. Schwarzenegger announced that convicts of nonviolent crimes were to be released before their sentence was completed in order to help relieve the state's prison system of the overcrowding problem. California is not the only state with overcrowded jails. Philadelphia prisons are so overcrowded that they are violating inmate's constitutional rights and so need court monitoring. Judge Surrick wrote: "The conditions include the failure to provide beds and bedding, the failure to provide material for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower facilities, unsanitary and unavailable toilet facilities, the failure to provide for the medical needs of detainees..." (qtd. in Hrubos). The United States is not the only country suffering from overcrowded jails. The UK has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe with over 72,000 people in prison in 2003 and the number continues to rise. In the last ten years, twenty six new prisons were built and already twenty of them are overcrowded. It is predicted that by 2010, the number of inmates will reach 110,000. Even the number of women in prison has tripled in the last decade. The amount of women prisoners has increased from 1300 to over 4000 and around 8,000 children are left motherless. The financial burden of keeping a person in prison is great. In the UK, it costs £37,500 to keep someone in prison for just one year. Whereas probation would cost only £3000 and community service £2000. More than 12,000 prison places have been provided since 1995 and each once costs around £100,000. All this and over half adult prisoners and three quarters of young offenders are reconvicted within two years of their release. One of the many reasons of the high rate of conviction is the fact that prisons act very much like a "school for crime." In jail, offenders are in constant contact with a large amount of more experienced criminals. Spending so much time with this big group of criminals can serve to teach other offenders to be better at crime and to be bigger criminals. Also violence is a way of life in prison. The increase of violence can make even the simplest offenders learn how to be violent criminals. Reconviction rates are especially high for children with 84% of kids between the ages of 14-16 being reconvicted within two years of their release. A major reason for this is because they have learned in prison how to create more crime. Another reason that prisons become schools for crime and in turn cause high conviction rates is the increase of violence in prison which teaches inmates to become more violent criminals. Violence is a serious problem in America’s prisons and jails. Gang violence, rape, beatings by...
Cited: Gibbons, John J. and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach "Summary of Findings and
Recommendations." Prison Commission, 2006. 20 Jul. 2007.
Hrubos, Natalie "Federal Judge Orders Overcrowded Philadelphia Jails
Returned to Court Oversight." jurist.law.pitt.edu 28 Jan. 2007. 22 Jul. 2007.
Page, Nick. "Rethinking Crime and Punishment." Rethinking. 2003. 21 Jul.
Sung, Michael. "California Legislators Approve Construction Program to Ease Prison
Overcrowding." jurist.law.pitt.edu 27 Apr. 2007. 22 Jul. 2007.
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