Research Paper (America's Prisons)

Topics: Crime, Prison, Criminal justice Pages: 5 (1945 words) Published: January 23, 2014

Research Paper
America’s prisons have a major importance in modern society. They are a huge contributing factor to the safety of our country and allow for proper and humane punishment for those who commit crimes. While America’s streets continue to be plagued by crime and dangerous people, prisons help significantly in decreasing the crime rate and removing those people from society in order to create a safer place for people to live. Although there are many pros that come with prisons, a handful of cons come with them as well, which allow for arguments to rise about whether prisons should be allowed in America or not. Prisons are a necessity in modern society that punishes and rehabilitates those who commit crimes with the purpose of protecting the rest of society, however, they come with many problems such as overcrowding, lack of resources, cost, and brutality which all must be accepted, for America’s prisons help keep our society safe and a better place to live. Prisons have been around since the beginnings of recorded human history. Crime is inevitable whenever there is civilization and in order to control it, the idea of punishment in the form of removal from society came to mind and therefore caused the creation of the first prisons. Hammurabi’s Code was among the first written set of laws and restrictions. Andy Hjelmeland stated, “Citations from the code of Hammurabi, one of the first legal codes in history, drawn up nearly 4000 years ago in Babylon, illustrate the ancient view of punishment: 200. If a man knock out the tooth of another man, they shall knock out his tooth” (Hjelmeland 15). These were some of the examples of the laws that were in place during ancient times. Next were medieval prisons – colonial times, another harsh point in history. Hjelmeland also stated, “Torture and mutilation have also been routinely used in punishing criminals” (Hjelmeland 16). Torture and mutilation were very common during these times and most people feared them. Intimidation was a way to hopefully decrease ongoing crime rates in society. Hjelmeland also wrote, “During the age of discovery, the maritime powers of Europe established colonies around the globe. Banishment to one of these faraway lands became another way of punishing criminals. England shipped convicts to colonial America and Australia; Spain sent criminals to Hispaniola (the island now occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic)” (Hjelmeland 16). In modern times, prisons are needed to keep crime off the street and helps keep our streets safe although there are still many problems that continue to be overlooked. Another fact Hjelmeland stated is, “Prisons are certainly more lenient and humane than in the past. One contributing factor in recent years has been intervention by the courts. A series of court rulings has granted constitutional protection to prisoners” (Hjelmeland 24). Prisons today still suffer from problems, but overall have improved allowing for more humane punishment. Crime in America is becoming increasingly more common. As crime rates grow, so do the number of prisons that are used to control it. Timothy Williams stated, “Violent crime rose in the United Sates in 2012 for the first time in six years, led by an increase in major crimes in large cities” (Williams par.1). As crime grows in America, the danger of our cities does as well for most crimes occur in populated suburban areas. Williams said, “The largest increases took place in cities with populations of between 500,000 and one million people, where violent crime rose by 3.7 percent, including a 12.5 percent spike in murder rates” (Williams par. 2). Crimes that occur in areas of large populations are especially dangerous due to the fact that it puts a large amount of people in danger. The author also said, “The last year in which violent crime rose nationally was 2006, when the rate went up by 1.9 percent. Before that, from 1996 to 2005, violent crime had declined by 17.6 percent,...

Citations: from the code of Hammurabi, one of the first legal codes in history, drawn up nearly 4000 years ago in Babylon, illustrate the ancient view of punishment: 200. If a man knock out the tooth of another man, they shall knock out his tooth” (Hjelmeland 15). These were some of the examples of the laws that were in place during ancient times. Next were medieval prisons – colonial times, another harsh point in history. Hjelmeland also stated, “Torture and mutilation have also been routinely used in punishing criminals” (Hjelmeland 16). Torture and mutilation were very common during these times and most people feared them. Intimidation was a way to hopefully decrease ongoing crime rates in society. Hjelmeland also wrote, “During the age of discovery, the maritime powers of Europe established colonies around the globe. Banishment to one of these faraway lands became another way of punishing criminals. England shipped convicts to colonial America and Australia; Spain sent criminals to Hispaniola (the island now occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic)” (Hjelmeland 16). In modern times, prisons are needed to keep crime off the street and helps keep our streets safe although there are still many problems that continue to be overlooked. Another fact Hjelmeland stated is, “Prisons are certainly more lenient and humane than in the past. One contributing factor in recent years has been intervention by the courts. A series of court rulings has granted constitutional protection to prisoners” (Hjelmeland 24). Prisons today still suffer from problems, but overall have improved allowing for more humane punishment.
Crime in America is becoming increasingly more common. As crime rates grow, so do the number of prisons that are used to control it. Timothy Williams stated, “Violent crime rose in the United Sates in 2012 for the first time in six years, led by an increase in major crimes in large cities” (Williams par.1). As crime grows in America, the danger of our cities does as well for most crimes occur in populated suburban areas. Williams said, “The largest increases took place in cities with populations of between 500,000 and one million people, where violent crime rose by 3.7 percent, including a 12.5 percent spike in murder rates” (Williams par. 2). Crimes that occur in areas of large populations are especially dangerous due to the fact that it puts a large amount of people in danger. The author also said, “The last year in which violent crime rose nationally was 2006, when the rate went up by 1.9 percent. Before that, from 1996 to 2005, violent crime had declined by 17.6 percent, according to the F.B.I figures” (Williams par. 6). Due to the large decrease of 17.6 percent in crime from 1996 to 2005, then to the rapid increase of 1.9 percent in crime in 2006, the data clearly shows that the U.S needs to put more prisons into the states so that the rising crime rates can be controlled. Adult men in prison are put into groups depending on the crime they were found guilty of and how dangerous they would be to the public if they escaped. There are four of these groups called security categories (“Prison and Punishment” par. 2). The security categories give organization to the prison system and lets construction of prisons be based on the type of prisoners that will be placed there. Category A: The most dangerous prisoners. If they escaped there would be a huge threat to the public. The prison service aims to make it impossible for these people to escape (“Prison and Punishment” par. 3). Category B: Less of a threat to the public, but still dangerous enough to need levels of security which make it very difficult for them to escape (“Prison and Punishment” par. 4). Category C: Prisoners who are thought to be of very little threat to the public, they either don’t want to escape or don’t have the skills needed (“Prison and Punishment” par. 5). Category D: People who do not pose a risk to the public and are unlikely to escape. These prisoners can be help in open prisons (“Prison and Punishment” par. 6). Prisons are based on the four categories which make it easier to determine what prison each convict will be serving their sentence in, which makes the prison system even more secure and decreases the chances that a high-risk convict will escape.
Although prisons are a major benefit to modern society, there still are many problems that continue to be overlooked. These issues are having an effect on the government and U.S citizens. Overcrowding is among the most controversial issues in America’s prisons. Barden wrote, “Between 1979 and 1984, 126 new prisons were built in the United States. Yet these prisons have not met the demand for more prison space. By 1986 our prisons were operating at between 107 and 121 percent of capacity” (Barden 50). Overcrowding of prisons does not only affect the outside world, but also the prisoners inside due to increased violence resulting in many deaths. Barden said, “Prisons continue to be overcrowded to this day. In more than 40 states, courts have issued orders to reduce prison overcrowding. But the states have been slow to comply” (Barden 50). The reason for not taking action is due to the expenses that come with increasing prison space. Most states do not have the money to reduce overcrowding, especially after the recession. Violence is most likely the best known issue in prisons. The author stated, “In the old days, prisoners feared brutal guards. Now the fear permeating American prisons comes mostly from fellow convicts. Beatings, stabbings, and homosexual rapes are everyday occurrences” (Hjelemeland 52). Violence leads to deaths and suicides in many of America’s prisons which also affect those convicts’ families. Another fact Andy wrote was, “Overcrowding is a major factor in prison violence. Double-bunking, dormitories filled beyond capacity, and gymnasiums and recreation rooms converted into makeshift sleeping quarters all contribute to increased tension in prison” (Hjelmeland 52). This is an example of one thing affecting another. The issue of overcrowding has led to the issue of violence creating larger problems that cannot be fixed at a moment’s notice. So while these issues aren’t helping the conditions of America’s prisons, they still achieve the main purpose that they were built for, keeping U.S citizens safe.
AIDS is the 3rd largest issue in America’s prisons. Andy wrote, “Originally, homosexual and bisexual men were the largest groups affected by AIDS, followed by drug users. But in recent years, needle-sharing drug users have become the largest groups. One-third of AIDS cases in the United States now originate from drug use” (Hjelmeland 78). If a convict was homosexually raped by another with AIDS it is then transmitted to them who may share needles for drug use with another convict which continues the cycle. “Medical treatment for AIDS patients is very expensive. For budgeting reasons, some correctional departments treat AIDS patients but not HIV infected persons. Even though drugs such as AZT (azidothymidine) have proved effective in delaying the onset of AIDS in some HIV patients, treatment is often too costly to provide to patients before they have AIDS” (Hjelmeland 81). Once again, expenses seem to put solving these problems into a delay which over time creates more problems that may be overlooked and not solved at all. While prisons are still plagued by these issues, there is more benefit in the prison system than there are drawbacks.
Compared to punishment a few hundred years in the past, most criminals today are treated fairly well, and each day America’s prisons are working toward an even more human way of punishing offenders. Barden wrote, “What if we returned to the early practice of flogging (public whipping), or putting people in public stocks? If flogging again became an accepted form of punishment, money saved by not imprisoning the offender might be given to the victims of the crime instead. But then the criminal would be out on the street again. The public stock method locks a criminal by the ankles and wrists in a wooden frame. Anyone who wants can come by and see the criminal publically disgraced. Maybe some criminals would prefer prison, where they cannot be seen, to embarrassing exposure in public” (Barden 26). Prison may seem harsh at times, but compared to the form of punishment hundreds of years ago, modern day convicts are lucky. Barden said, “To most of the public, the most important function of a prison is to provide restraint. Prisons temporarily prevent criminals from committing more crimes” (Barden 26-27). What goes on inside the prisons may generate many problems, but the overall goal of the prison system is to remove dangerous criminals from the streets to keep the rest of society safe, which they generally succeed at.
America’s prisons succeed at many of their goals, especially rehab and deterring convicts. Barden stated, “To rehabilitate inmates is to educate them to change their behavior. Ideally, they are taught to value the pleasure of liberty and responsibility and to prepare for life outside the walls” (Barden 27). America’s prisons are keeping our streets free of dangerous criminals and are helping bring people to justice. The author also wrote, “The effects of deterrence are hard to measure; however, because human beings differ so much from one another, the threat of being punished may be more vivid to some people than to others” (Barden 28-29). Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from offending again. Prisons teach people wrong from right and show offenders that they are lucky to have as much rights and freedom as they do as U.S citizens and that it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
America’s prisons contribute to the overall safety of our nation. They put dangerous people behind bars and allow citizens to walk among each other knowing they are safe from human threat. Although current issues make the prison system seem like a waste of our nation’s money and that they should not be in effect, the benefits they are providing for our country is far greater than any issue. These benefits are safety of the U.S people, rehabilitation of offenders so they will not commit any more crimes, and the teaching of future generations that performing wrong actions will only lead to consequences. America’s prisons are a necessity in modern society and will continue to be in the future.
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