The United States has the highest rate of confinement of prisoners per 100,000 population than any other Western country. Analyze this phenomena and discuss actions that you feel are necessary to combat this problem.
Reports show that in the United States prison confinement per 100,000 of the population is the highest than in any of the other Western country. Criminal offenders vastly out number correctional officers and as a result, it may be difficult for these officers to keep a hold of control of the inmates and the institution, and this in turn can lead to even more behavior by inmates that are aggressive and violent. Many researchers argue that for crimes like rapes and murders which are committed by criminal offenders, there need to be an even longer prison term and the sentence need to match the seriousness of the crime, and for those crimes that are not as serious, like if an offender violates his or her parole or even shoplifts, then a prison sentence should not be given as punishment ("Prison nation," 2009).
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It is a well known fact that the over-sentencing of offenders in the United States is a shame that sets apart the United States from other Western. Research shows that" the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its prisoners" (Ifill, 2010). The causes are clear-cut and staggering. No jobs, little or no education which include high drop out rates from schools, and family disruptions are all factors that play a part and contribute to the escalation in crime that in part have contributed to a rise in the rates of sentencing . But it is a sequence of unjustly harsh and severe criminal laws and mandatory sentencing laws that have caused a five hundred (500%) percent increase in the prison population in the United States over the past thirty (30) years.
Then we have the three-strike law which increases the prison sentence of offenders convicted of felonies when they have been previously convicted of a serious or violent felony crime. It causes more harm than good when offenders who commit non violent crimes get sent to prison, as they do not get rehabilitated and they do not get taught how to survive in the real world outside of prison. In prison they meet the hardest and most violent criminals so in the long term they become more corrupt after coming into contact with those offenders who do not even care about themselves, let alone anyone else. What these offenders know is survival and this is what causes them to reoffend which in turn get them sent back to prison, resulting in the high numbers of prison confinement ("Michigan task force," 2005).
In 2005 the Michigan Task Force for Jail and Prison Overcrowding stated that no one cause can explain high confinement rates in prisons and prison overcrowding but there are different things that play a part in this huge problem ("Michigan task force," 2005). The main function of correctional services is not to punish but to deal with the behavior and attitude using different programs for treatment while indirectly dealing with high rates of confinement and recidivism. When trying to create a reduction in the number of offenders re-offending the main aim should not be to inflict punishment, but rather the aim should be to seek out the factors that may have played a role in the offender committing that particular crime in the first place, and which would possibly put him or her at risk for committing future crimes (McGuire, 2002).
Firstly, when prison surroundings get excessively distressing, it also begins to get harmful, and this can also be unhelpful and destructive. Once inmates are released from prison, they transmit the effects or results of that harm and destruction right back into the free world. Secondly, the single greatest significant influence that assist in explaining the present catastrophe in correctional facilities in terms of the high rates of offender confinement in the United States is the deficiency of treatments and programs that are effective, the determination of unsafe and poor conditions of imprisonment, and the use of vigorous, intense, and possibly harmful techniques of control in the institution- which is the overcrowding that has overwhelmed our Federal and State correctional facilities for almost thirty (30) years (Haney, 2006).
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Lastly, if this issue had been tackled in an effective manner in earlier years which saw unparallel boosts in the use of imprisonment, for example, "when the United States Supreme Court first confronted the then-controversial practice of double-celling in 1979" (Haney, 2006, pg. 267) then the current history of corrections in the United States would not only have been written differently, but a lot of the issues that the commission have been asked to handle and assist in resolving would have never occurred.
Correctional facilities are built to hold an assured number of offending inmates, with one bed for each inmate. When there is an increase in population because of the high rates of confinement, cells that are single become double, those that are double become triple, and so on and so forth, and of course we have "makeshift beds bolted into the walls." Even the rooms where inmates can go during the day to watch television, read, or talk, and the shared areas which were intended for pastime, leisure, activity and relaxation get blocked up with bunk beds. Sometimes a prison facility will open up temporary facilities, like the famous "tent city" of Maricopa County jail in Arizona. If worst comes to worse, prisoners are shipped off to other states: California has already sent more than 7,000 inmates to Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Oklahoma (Beam, 2009).
The United States is faced with a serious problem of high rates of offender confinement which also leads to prison overcrowding and violence. Agencies need to identify what went wrong as shown in the introduction, with solutions in the end that are workable inside the organization, while working hand in hand with other individuals who has a direct interest in the facility, including prisoners, in a way that will set out to have an effect on their behavior in the future, and consequently in a round about way, addressing the issue of high offender confinement. The emphasis of accountability rest wholly and solely on the shoulders of the Department of Correctional Services, to actually get the behavioral change that is most wanted on individuals who end up in the hands of the law (Shabangu, 2006).
One would expect that the study of high confinement rates in United States prisons will among other things, set out to get an understanding of the present rehabilitation programs with a view to critique the validness in connection to their goal or purpose and as a result make suggestions about programs that would better address rehabilitation and reform programs, which will in turn reduce high confinement rates and ultimately reduce prison overcrowding ("Michigan task force," 2005).
"Two cases, Plata v. Schwarzenegger and Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, brought against the state, allege cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Both were long running cases, with the Coleman case dating back to 1995 with 77 substantive orders issued in an effort to "fix" the mental health system in California prisons. In October of 2005, the Plata court ordered the California prison healthcare system into receivership to establish a constitutionally adequate medical system. In November of 2006 the plaintiffs in both cases filed a motion to convene a three-judge panel to limit California's prison population as provided under the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (18 U.S.C. Â§3626 and 28 U.S.C. Â§2284). On July 23, 2007, both the Plata court and the Coleman court issued orders to convene a three-judge panel in order to determine if a population cap should be placed on California prisons. Only one panel will be convened for both cases" (Haney, 2006).
High confinement rates in correctional facilities can also echo right back throughout our system of criminal justice, generating issues in local jails. Officials in correctional facilities may respond to situations of high confinement rates by trying to decrease the speed in which they are keen or even capable to take in new inmates. In severe cases, some facilities may they may decline to even accept them period. But the overcrowding that occurs as inmates are backed up in the criminal justice system, waiting to get transferred to correctional facilities, is by itself damaging in its own right. Take for example, huge populations in prison may give rise mathematically to an increased demand for services, increasing demand for services, with the worsening of correctional facilities due to the speed of prison overcrowding and additionally challenging the capability of correctional facilities to supply for essential human necessities (Haney, 2006).
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High confinement rates in United States prisons seem to have particularly unfavorable effects on the conduct of younger inmates in the facility. One study on the prison system in Texas noted that the larger the number of younger prison inmates in the facility then the rate of assaults and violations will be much more significant. Other research has shown some evidence for a collaboration outcome between the size of the prison and age. Prisoners who are younger may be more vulnerable to the issues and control system in prisons that are huge than the inmates that are older or much more matured. Another research study got almost the same results with general connections that showed a considerable relationship between how full the facility is, the number of total assaults, and prisoner assaults, such that the more overcrowded the prison, the more often the assaults will occur. Inmates who are younger and inexperienced are likely to be more unstable, aware of the surroundings and, will most likely respond in a hostile way to the stress, anxiety, and disagreements that high confinement rates cause (Haney, 2006).
It is of my opinion that the high rates of confinement in United States correctional facilities needs to be looked at in a much closer manner, but for this problem to be fixed, the most important issue is really for authorities to find out exactly what causes the problem of high confinement rates which can in turn lead to prison over-crowding (Shabangu, 2006). In order to ascertain what causes high confinement rates in United States prisons, the initial motivation as to why offenders commit crimes in the first place needs to be very closely examined (Haney, 2006).
Prison inmates that have prior criminal records are the individuals who seem to have very little education, are either divorced or has never married, have no jobs, and most likely came from homes that were broken (Shabangu, 2006). Research has also pointed to the social background that the offender came from, and believes that there is some connection, and that it is one of the main reasons why these offenders and repeat offenders go out and commit crimes.
Looking into the hidden issues that add to high confinement rates in United States prisons one will have to come to the understanding that there is a significant amount of ex-prisoners who have reverted back to the commission of crimes. Many would like to see the situation transformed where correctional facilities do not get so overcrowded, and they would also like to see less ex-prisoners return to be readmitted to the prison system ("Prison Nation," 2009). Researchers feel that many offenders take advantage of the prison system in the United States and would like to have an impact on such change in this particular field, so that tax payers can get their money' worth. Citizens who abide by the law on the other hand will be persuaded to continue doing so, and criminals will continue to be discouraged from committing criminal acts. Our correctional facilities in the United States should be looked at as schools where offenders graduate as citizens who are law abiding and who have also learned to live a lifestyle free of crime making them socially acceptable (Shabangu, 2006).
In order to combat the problem of high confinement rates in United States prisons rehabilitative programs being used by the Department of corrections needs to be revisited and revised in order to conform to each inmate. (Shabangu, 2006). Firstly, it is also of my opinion that because of the number of cases that go to trial, there is a backlog so prosecutors should refrain from trying so many misdemeanor cases and these individuals should in turn be sent to rehabilitative programs where they stand a good chance of changing their ways. Many offenders are very young and some of them committed these crimes before they were even old enough to vote, so if given the opportunity of facing the three-strikes law and going to prison for the rest of their natural lives, or getting rehabilitated, I think that for most it would be a relatively decision.
Secondly, many of the second and third strikes that offenders receive are for offences that were not serious nor violent and I truly believe that this makes up a large part of the prison population. By the time the courts sentence individuals for the much more serious crimes the prisons are already over populated or very close to it. In this case I believe that the court will need to take a look at the prior conviction of an offender and make the determination or whether or not it should have been classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. By doing this the three strikes law will not apply of an offence that was newly committed and the offender in turn may have the opportunity to be rehabilitated instead. Also whether or not the offender was a minor at the time the crime was committed could play a huge part in whether the three strike law applies.
Thirdly, a high percentage of the offenders that get sent to prison may have either been sent to a prison or jail before; in this case the prison will only act as a warehouse to house humans. For those offenders who came to prison for the first time and for non serious, non violent crimes, they should be put on 3-5 years probation where they will be sent to a mandatory rehabilitation program in a controlled environment, where they have day to day access to education, vocational training, drug treatment programs while also learning a trade that would be helpful to them on completion. Probation officers will monitor these offenders on a day to day basis, from the time they are sentenced to the end of the program. If an offender refuses to attend or misses any day of the program then this should result in him or her being sent to prison to serve out the time of the original sentence that they may have received in the beginning.
Lastly, if a low risk offender gets sent to prison on a first or second strike it should be mandatory that the prison has available rehabilitative programs and that the offender is compelled to enter such. Once these low risk offenders are done making their time and they are paroled this will greatly decrease the high confinement rates in prison. The catch to this is that there will be extremely harsh and swift punishment for those offenders who set out to violate their parole.
I truly believe that if an offender is fortunate enough to get a second chance he or she should not blow it and have the utmost respect for the criminal justice and the correctional system. As a result however, a more active role needs to be taken by correctional facilities in an attempt to reduce and or prevent recidivismÂ by placing their main focus on rehabilitation. Once this is done and offenders are released, they have some way of supporting themselves and possibly also a new outlook on life. If not, the same individual is just being released back into society, under the exact same circumstances, while having the expectation of an entirely different result.