Examining The Mass Imprsionment In The United States Criminology Essay

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The rate of incarceration in the United States is high as compared to the rest of the world due to some reasons, like the way people are arrested for drug offenses, misdemeanor offenses, the 3-strike policy etc. According to the statistics in the Article, The Queer, Feminist & Trans Politics of Prison Abolition in 2008, the current official UK prison population was approximately: 93,208

England & Wales (1 August 2008): 83,810

Scotland (August 1, 2008): 7,858

Northern Ireland (4 August 2008): 1,540

Over imprisonment: England and Wales recorded the highest rate of mass incarceration in Western Europe (The Queer, Feminist & Trans Politics of Prison Abolition). Over sentencing: They also had the highest number of prisoners that were sentenced to life; more than France, Italy, Germany, and so on (The Queer, Feminist & Trans Politics of Prison Abolition).

Table1.1: International prison population comparison (The Queer, Feminist & Trans Politics of Prison Abolition)


Percentage increase in prison population since 1995

Prison population per 100,000 of the population in 2007

England and Wales













-11 %





New Zealand



World Median



U.S. Incarceration Rate in International Context, (2006-2009) (Prisons Law Blog)

The Chart clearly shows a recent development in the rate of mass incarceration in the United States and other top 10 countries. Comparatively, the two charts show the mass incarceration in the United States and it doesn't indicate a decrease anytime soon because they remain number one in the world and still growing (The Queer, Feminist & Trans Politics of Prison Abolition & Prisons Law Blog). United States, have more people in prisons, probation or on parole, than the population of civilians serving in the in the military or federal Government (American Furies). In many parts of the country, more young black men, mostly those in urban ghettos, are the most common victim to be put in prisons, compared to those present in college (American Furies). One of the ways that made U.S incarceration rate very high is the imprisonment of young blacks.

California was one of the states that really made use of the three strikes and have struck out over 5000 people (Hard Time Blues). Surprisingly, most of these people committed nonviolent felonies on their third strikes (Hard Time Blues). This is what I do not like about the three strikes because you could commit the same crime as another person but the hierarchy at which you committed it could be different, which could result to life sentencing or a long period prison time. As a result of the three strikes people like Ochoa and some other lives were destroyed because they get to stay in prison for the rest of their life (Hard Time Blues). Three Strikes is one of the main factors, the United States is leading other industrialized nations in mass incarceration because it involves the accumulation of any kind of felony be it misdemeanor or a serious felony.

Mass imprisonment on local communities intensified after the incident on 9/11, 2001, at both state and federal level (American Furies). In Florida, those in the community were told in public meetings about the construction of prisons as a priority. The PBA was against it because they felt the community was at risk due to certain reasons that the guards were not well paid, didn't practice often, had poor track record on security etc (American Furies). The PBA was not the only that was against the construction of prisons, community groups, many state politicians, also stood against the institutions in recent years (American Furies).

Instead of this constant construction of prisons by private companies and their thoughts on how to make money off prisons, I think the society or government should consider the root of the problem, why the increase of mass incarceration and has the crime rate reduced because of this? Because all I see here is just how to imprison people and expect them to learn through hardship, punishment etc. I feel if that can be eliminated or reduced, then they wouldn't have to think much about the construction of more prisons in the community or anywhere else since it seems like there's nowhere else to build prisons other than within the community.

In Maryland, the request for construction of private prisons was denied by two senators (American Furies). They adamantly opposed the placing of private prisons in any community in Maryland that doesn't approve it. In Waynesburg, the people in the community didn't consider the negative effect of the construction of prison as expected because they were engrossed with other issues in their lives (American Furies). Pamela Snyder a county commissioner said she did not remember people talking about the mass imprisonment. She said that their concerns were the things that affected people's daily lives: jobs, health care, and the quality of life (American Furies).

More black young men are found in prisons for drug and other offenses. Surprisingly, Latinos in many parts of the country are also arrested at high rates for one reason or the other American Furies). The annoying part is the rate at which the poor young Americans at sent to prisons, especially those with color who do not have the financial support and the privileges that their middle class peer do not consider (American Furies). Prison has been a common place for these young Americans who become used to the brutalities they usually face in prisons (American Furies). After such treatment, they expect people like that to approach life in a soft way when they were taught in the hard way. Disparity and Discrimination do not usually have positive effect on people. These only causes more harm the good.

Eastern State Penitentiary which seems to be the biggest in the United States in the nineteen century had so many prisoners into the latter year of the twentieth century (American Furies). Prisoners in Eastern State penitentiary worked at making shoes, dying fabrics, sewing tapestries, and crafting furniture, their materials were provided by the prison staff, a kind of system to put them to work (American Furies). Eastern State's inmates were not permitted to have any kind of conversation with one another to avoid conspiracy or coup. If they are caught having any kind of conversation, they were punished (American Furies).

According to American Furies, in the year 1820s and 1830s there were information on how prisoners were gagged with iron mask, especially the talkative ones, an object that was attached to their tongue and pulled around the back of the neck which serves both to limit them from conversation and block the flow of blood to the organ (American Furies). The most stubborn inmates were put into straitjackets, and some were taken out into cold winter, stripped naked, and drenched consistently with buckets of ice water (American Furies). The ways prisoners were treated in Eastern State were absurd; one couldn't imagine the pain and hell the prisoners went through while they were there. I do not see how that is a correctional method, I thought one of the reasons prisons were built was to keep criminals and dangerous people away. As soon as they are done serving their time in prison which is mend to be a period for thinking about their mistakes and not do it again. Instead, these prisoners face treatments that would affect them psychologically. The solitary model of confinement drove many prisoners insane because most of them didn't think they would be out anytime soon, after all the torture they faced (American Furies). And to think of what to face, each time you are caught, for the rest one's life, is enough to drive many insane.

According to the system in Eastern State, their main goal is to convert the most hardened criminals into reliable, work-accustomed citizens (American Furies). I do not see how that would have much effect on them; rather I see it affecting those who are victim of circumstance that is those that got into prison due to ill luck. I do not see the positive impact it would have on people like that. Especially, when they know that it would reflect on their record for life as a convict. That alone is a psychological breakdown to convicts because they cannot easily get a job when they are let out of prison. That explains why many of them end up in prisons after being out of prison for a while because they become wild from the treatments they had from their previous stay in prison plus the issue of no job which brings about the question of survivor and leads them back to prison. Prohibition of conversation is an additional torture to people who were in prison as victim of circumstance, most especially those of them that were used to conversing with people all their lives.

I understand that one of the reasons for not allowing them to talk to one another was a preventive method but they also need to look at it from a different perspective before concluding that the solitary system method was the best. To me, it's just pure cruelty because not everyone in prison deserves to be there, although we were convinced that a higher percentage of people in prison deserve to be in prison but that doesn't change the fact that not all are guilty. So what do we say about the innocent, we go along with the popular adage which says when the guilty suffer the innocent at times share in it. But the reason those in authority enforce law and order is for peace and justice to reign, I do not see the justice in the solitary system.

One of the surprising occurrence at Eastern State Penitentiary, prisoners that were mostly put in the isolated facilities, many of them were mentally ill, soon, others started to develop signs of mental illness while in the lockdown, and routinely hurt themselves as a way to get attention, or to get sent to the marginally less unpleasant environs of the prison hospital or psychiatric ward (American Furies). Stories of women who repeatedly stuck pens and staples ( reaped from the bindings of magazines) into their arms; men who cut their genitalia; prisoners who spent days and weeks covered in their own feces etc (America Furies).

The way prisoners are treated tells us that there is something wrong somewhere with the society. It brings about a sense of doubt to us about our society because we start to question the authority's competency. It is enough for us to question the authority because we cannot act on our own else we will be going against the law. If the society doesn't provide answers to our questions, I feel crime rate won't be reduced, of course it can't be eradicated, it's inevitable but that doesn't mean there isn't a possibility. And to hear and read about how prisoners are treated and not see them take any action is questionable.