Why Prisons Are Becoming Overcrowding Criminology Essay

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This paper will attempt to explain why violent behavior is one of the primary reasons for prison overcrowding. Correctional officers who are supposed to be in charge of prison inmates are disgustingly outnumbered by criminal offenders; consequently, that control "can slip out of their hands" and this will ultimately lead to more violent behavior. Researchers believe that offenders who commit grave crimes, for example murder and rape, need to be penalized for the seriousness of the crime that they commit, even with lengthier terms of imprisonment, but crimes that are less serious, for example, parole violation, shoplifting, and minor drug offences, should not be given prison sentences as punishment ("Prison nation," 2009). When nonviolent offenders are sent to prison this will cause more harm than good because short term offenders do not get the rehabilitation they need, nor the tools to survive in the free world so the prison experience causes them to become more corrupt because they meet up with long term, hard core prisoners who care nothing about anything or anyone, and once they are paroled into the free world the only thing that they know is a life of crime and survival of the fittest, causing them to reoffend and return to prison which then causes overcrowding ("Michigan task force," 2005).


Prison overcrowding has a number of sources. The high rates of habitual relapse into crime are the most important source. Among the many aches and pains for the Department of Corrections, among other problems, is prison overcrowding. It is of my opinion that prison overcrowding is almost like a form of sickness that needs to be restored back to health, but in order for any illness to be healed the study of what causes the illness has to be of utmost importance (Shabangu, 2006). In order to establish the cause of prison overcrowding, one has to look, by close scrutiny, at the foundational motives as to why crimes are committed (Haney, 2006).

The inmates that would most likely have a previous criminal record are the ones who has little or no education, has never been married or are either divorced, are unemployed and came from broken households (Shabangu, 2006). Researchers believe that the social backgrounds from which the offender came, has some connection to why he or she commits crimes. It is also their claim that the present reform and rehabilitative programs used by the Department of Corrections need to be visited again in order to fit each and every individual offender. If these programs are in synch with the different offender profiles then the Department of Corrections will be able to improve those individuals who are in charge of its care (Shabangu, 2006).

According to the Michigan Task Force for Jail and Prison Overcrowding, 2005, there is no single cause that can be used to explain overcrowding in prisons and jails, even though there are many various local measures and practices that play a part in the crisis. Actually, local procedures and practices vary at each of the different resolution points in the criminal justice system, from the point of first contact by law enforcement officials with a criminal to the decision made by the courts regarding imprisonment. Furthermore, different and frequent conflicting policies and course of actions subsist in relation to the "bonding practices," services prior to trial, imprisonment awaiting case disposition, and supervision by the community. All of these discrepancies also have a strong effect of prison overcrowding ("Michigan task force," 2005).

The 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 prison overcrowding and recidivism. When trying to create a reduction in the number of offenders re-offending it should not be aiming to inflict punishment, but rather the factors that may have played a role in the offender committing that particular crime at which would put him or her at risk for committing future crimes (McGuire, 2002).

When the surroundings in prison gets excessively distressing, it also begin to get harmful, and once inmates are released from prison, they transmit the effects or results of that harm straight back into the free world. It is not only unpleasing and or awkward in correctional facilities that are bad, but these prisons can also be unhelpful and destructive. Secondly, the single greatest significant influence that assist in explaining the present catastrophe in correctional facilities 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). 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.

Overcrowding in correctional facilities can also Prison overcrowding 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 prison overcrowding 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).

Prison overcrowding seems 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 overcrowding and forms of incarceration (Haney, 2006).


This study is important because the United States is faced with a serious problem of prison overcrowding and recidivism. Identifying 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, consequently in a round about way addressing the issue of prison overcrowding. 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).

Looking into the hidden issues that contribute to prison overcrowding one will come to the realization that there is a substantial amount of ex-prisoners who have reverted back to the commission of crimes. Researchers would like to see the situation changed where correctional facilities do not get so overcrowded, and they would also like to see less ex-prisoners return only 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).


There are often questions asked, but only one is quoted, "Does correctional facilities really reform or rehabilitate prisoners?" In most cases the answer is no. Researchers noted that this is accredited to the elevated rate of prison overcrowding. Researchers are of the belief that something may have gone wrong with our criminal justice system, and it needs to be recognized, and remedial measures need to be taken in order to make the situation normal again. If researchers take a look at the whole legal process including the clause above, they have ignored victims of crimes and their rights. According to the researcher, "there is a balance struck between both rights" (Shabangu, 2006)

There is an issues regarding materially providing for prisoners while they ignore the victims of crime and this plays a huge part in recidivism and ultimately prison over crowding. According to the United States Constitution," the hidden reason behind abolishing the death penalty is because of the offenders rights to life. The very taxpayer who has been the victim of a crime at the hands of these criminals, are the same ones who end up catering to these criminal offenders. When offenders go to sleep at night, they go to sleep with a clear conscious that on the next morning they will receive breakfast as usual, lunch later in the day, dinner at night, medicine, clothes, and relaxation all free and at no cost to them. Law abiding citizens are the ones who have to pay for these material needs regardless of whether they work or not (Shabangu, 2006).

"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 are 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. §3626 and 28 U.S.C. §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" ("Briefing report: prison," 2007).

Researchers would like to suggest a change in regard to this as it has a roundabout influence on prison overcrowding. The researcher is a strong supporter of putting in place, treatment programs with the types of crimes committed and the reason behind why the crime was committed (Shabangu, 2006). The government should only help with living and accommodation in addition to other needs of the prisoners and in cases that extremely deserve of those services. Prisoners should have the responsibility of paying for their own costs at the correctional facility (rent for room and board, food, toiletries, etc) just like if they were on the outside and then maybe they would think twice about committing a crime, which will then reduce prison overcrowding ("Prison Nation, 2009).


The characteristics of the research, specifically, investigating potential solutions to prison overcrowding in the United States Department of Corrections is the main cause for the methods chosen. The research methods that will be used in this study have many different parts because of the different viewpoints that have to be talked over before betting on board with potential solutions to the issue of prison overcrowding ("Connecticut general assembly," 2005).

Literature Survey

Interviewing officials, criminal justice professionals including administrators and "judges, and key staff in the correction department, parole board, Department of Mental Health and Addiction" ("Connecticut general assembly," 2005), regular law abiding citizens, criminal offenders in order to see their different profiles and reasons for gradually stopping criminal acts or returning to crime, in order to try and work out possible solutions to the problem of prison overcrowding, in addition to individuals who have been victims of crimes; and

Reading statutes, and the judicial branch's criminal court, adult probation, and alternative sanctions systems ("Connecticut general assembly," 2005).


It would be almost impossible to put together this kind of research without referring to other kinds of information from the sources below:



Peer Reviews,



Reports from the Government, and



The main goal of the study of prison overcrowding is among other things awareness and clear perception into the occurrence of punishment with an observation of such attainable knowledge. The main goal of the researcher is to get an understanding of the present rehabilitation programs with a view to critique the validness in connection to their goal or purpose and ultimately make suggestions about programs that would better address rehabilitation and reform programs, which will in turn reduce prison overcrowding. Crime has proven to be a huge problem in the United States and has far reaching results other than causing pain and suffering to crime victims and causing public disorder. Crime on the other hand also has a very negative impact on the entire country including overseas investors ("Michigan task force," 2005).

If investors were to remove their money and business from this country there would be a higher rate of unemployment, and unemployment causes poverty, which will in turn cause crime, and in the end crime will cause prison overcrowding. The researcher at all cost would like to steer clear of this situation (Shabangu, 2006). McIvor, and Raynor, 2007 pointed out that because of the effects of crime in Florida, the State lost approximately a few million dollars because of reservations that were cancelled because of the result of crime. The huge amounts of tourists that would normally come to Florida made the decision to spend their vacations somewhere else and in an attempt to evade possible problems (McIvor, & Raynor, 2007).

It is an unquestionable fact that crimes are committed by some individuals not because they are delinquent law breakers but because of other surrounding circumstances, one of which is the fact that they are the end product of the influences of their upbringing (Siegel, 2008). Social reaction Theory, also known as Labeling Theory has evolved over the past few years from as early as 1938. Presently Labeling Theory suggests that when an individual commits a criminal act; they will be given the label of "criminal". When society labels this individual in such a way, they will possibly accept this label as a part of who they are. Because the individual now thinks of him/herself as a criminal, he/she will most probably continue in his/her criminal behavior (Siegel, 2008). Individuals who are exposed to negative labels encounter "self-rejection, which causes them to bond with social outcasts" (Siegel, 2008) for example a thief does not consider himself to be a thief because he makes the claim that he or she is stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

It is understood by the researcher, which is also in line with Labeling Theory, that negative labeling will most likely cling to an individual who fight toward bringing himself with such a label, which then turn out to be the reason behind why he or she engages in criminal acts. Once a delinquent individual is labeled as such by society it may be very difficult to move away from that name, so as an alternative he may hold on to that label because it gives him an identity that he may not be ably to obtain by other means, and so that label becomes important for him to maintain (Shabangu, 2006). As discussed above the main aims of the study is to re-examine the present rehabilitation and reform programs, to suggest elements or factors that need to be taken into consideration when putting together policies on the topic of rehabilitation and reformation programs for offenders, and to make suggestions based on the research result, with respect to the putting in place of programs which will ultimately reduce the pace or reoffending and over crowding in our prison system (Haney, 2006).

In addition to the above other long and short term goals will be bought to the forefront including suggesting short, transitional, and long-term plans for finding a resolution to prison and jail overcrowding statewide; Acknowledging the relationship between prison and jail overcrowding in regards to its maximum volume; Propose policies that may comprise of the redeployment and or adding of resources; and Propose a line of attack for the institution of a more intentional, regulated process of planning with respect to the growth of the prison inhabitants in order to put a stop to, or become more ready for the event of prison and jail overcrowding in the future ("Michigan task force," 2005).

For offenders who are still incarcerated, prison overcrowding is still a serious issue. Research shows that "thanks largely to tougher sentencing," the amount of inmates in the criminal justice system in America blew up from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2006. Even though the increasing proportion of inmates to the general inhabitants has been coming to a state of equilibrium since the year 2000, the total amount is still progressively increasing ("Prison conditions:" 2007).