Overcrowded Prisons Effects on Inmates and Recidivism Research Proposal


Overcrowded Prisons Effects on Inmates and Recidivism


Establishing a prison; it entails, training of personnel to take care of prisoners, throughout the process of transformation, it is expensive and never an easy task. The increasing rates of crime notwithstanding, the capacity to establish new prisons is at negative, which has led to overcrowded prisons. Overcrowded prisons are characterized by a larger number of inmates than initially designed and lesser space for inmates than initially designed. Some of causes of overcrowded prisoners are failure to find and use successful alternatives for prisoners, building programs for prisons based on funds, deteriorating age that contributes to and inefficiencies of moving prisoners within facilities. Besides affective inmates directly, the society also falls a victim of recidivism due to crowded prisoners. This is to mean that the society habitats former prisoners who never changed their evil ways.

There are diverse factors that characterize the prison environment is some of which are unfavorable hence affecting individual inmates. Crowded prisoners are attributed to chronic psychological, physical, and social chronic effects on inmates. Besides, crowded prisoners uphold environments for ant-social behaviors, coupled with lack of control for the individuals. There are 3 types of effects of crowded prisoners upon the environment of a daily inmate. To begin with, resources and space are stretched beyond imagination for a normal human being. Do not forget that prisons are designed with insufficient resources. Second, prisoners have limited chances to participate in the rehabilitative and self-improvement plans. Finally, inmates lack work opportunities leading to idleness which is coupled with discontent behavior, which may be carried outside prison hence leading to recidivism. This analysis determines the effects of crowded prisons both on the prisoners and the society based on the rates of recidivism.

With interest in current affairs affecting my country, I have derived the current topic to present diversified opinions based in the relationship between prison status and increased rates of crime. Nevertheless, on the aspect of prison status, this analysis will incline more towards overcrowded prisons. The study shall investigate diverse literatures based on prison overcrowding and its impact on prisoners particularly on recidivism and hardening of criminals. Besides, the study will conduct a qualitative research based on four overcrowded prisons both in Washington and New York. The analysis will engage the use of questionnaires and interviews among sampled prison officers and prisoners. Finally, the study shall have an analysis based on the findings of the research.

Problem Statement

The goal of prisons, which is to reform inmates to be better citizens who can live with other people without causing them injury, is not successful to greater aspects. Apparently, some of the prisons only harden the citizen instead of making them better citizens. The increase of the number of prisoners notwithstanding, the populations fewer countries have taken the initiative of establish in new prisons or alternative measures for prisons. The California prison population is one of the examples of this situation where the number of inmates is twice as much as the designed population. Instead of 78,858 prisoners, 33 prisons in the state hold about 140, 000 inmates which is, almost twice as much as the designed capacity. As compared to 198 1 where 32% of inmates were taken back to jail, today about 72% parolees are taken back to jail. Lack of alternative programs to reform and punish law offenders is one of the predominant causes of overcrowded prisons.

Research Questions


Do overcrowded prisons contribute to the upsurge of recidivism rates within a society?


Does the experience of spending time in a prison environment that is overcrowded make an inmate a more hardened than before?

Literature Review

The rates of imprisonment have been in the upsurge in the United States, with over thrice as much since the 1990s.

The U.S prisons were over one million inmates by the mid 1990s. Today, the annual government expense on prisons is estimated to $4o billion per anum. In the United States, the rates of incarceration are roughly 3 to 4 times as much as the European nations. Despite the fact that the country experiences a decrease of criminal cases per year, this does not seem to be reflected on the rates of imprisonment. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that there has been an upsurge of imprisonment by almost three times. On the other hand, the rates of crimes on violence have doubled. As such, the rate of increase in imprisonment rates does not reflect on the number of crimes reported. According to Levitt (1996) the rates of crimes did not decrease dramatically due to large upsurge of imprisonment coupled with an increase of prison reliance by commentators an unsuccessful policy. As such, he advocates for suspension of original prison construction, decriminalization of offences of drugs, and different approaches of correcting law breakers

According to Gaes (1985, p. 95). Overcrowding is attributed to delinquency and ill health for prisoners and recidivism to the society. Some of the approaches that are implemented to evaluate whether a prison is overcrowded include, floor space per inmate, the population of the institution inmates per living unit in relation to the capacity stated. Both the housing accommodation of the prison and objective crowding conditions depend on whether a prisoner perceives if a jail is overcrowded

Again Gaes (1985, p. 95-96) states that, scholars and researchers agree in a number of issues in relation to prison overcrowding. They include (1) prisoners with open bay large dormitories are characterized with frequent visits to the clinic. Their cases are characterized with high blood pressure as compared to prisoners within small dormitories, single and double-bunked cells. (II) Prisoners with dormitories are characterized by higher rates of assaults as compared to the other prisons. (III) Prisons with a higher number of inmates than their designed capacity, which is sixty squire feet for every inmate, undergo more cases of assaults than prisons that with appropriate or lower number than designed.

According to Jon Collins (2010, p. 1), the overcrowding of prisons has become part of landscape’s penal code for years on end. As such, most people perceive it as part of the prison. This is subsequent to the fact that most prisons are characterized by overcrowding of inmates. Some of the prisons transcends to a double population in relation to the original design. This subsequently leads to inadequacy of resources which is coupled with conflicts among inmates and deterioration of conduct. This is attributed to individuals joining gangs and groupings for survival. The groupings and gangs are characterized by power and violence in relation to acquiring the little resources. Consequently, the indulgence of antisocial behaviors are incubated in the prisons, subsequently giving birth to worse inmates than before, which leads to recidivism.

Collins observes that some of the overcrowding effects are degrading such as sharing a toiled, and having no chair to sit on while eating. The conditions are coupled with a restrain for individual inmates’ resources such as facilities of providing training, education and other positive transformational activities. The employees in the prisons which include the officers and prisons wardens are overstretched making it impossible to address all individuals in leading them towards the reforming processes.

According to Collins (2010, p. 2-3), the prevalence of suicide and self-harm in custodies are among the consequences of overcrowding prisons. Anne Owens, former Chief Inspector of Police in Wales, England stated that overcrowding of prisons is a predominant contributor to increased suicidal cases. According to a study conducted by The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, stated that the conditions of overcrowded prisons in Wales are overwhelming hence contributing to suicidal cases, which was in agreement with Anne Owens. Overcrowding is also attributed to the disruption of some prisons programs which are intended to enhance the reformation of inmates. An example of such programs is treating alcoholic and drug prisoners prior to their arrest. Besides, overcrowding of prisons contributes to damaged family relationships. This is subsequent to inmates being sent to jails that are far from their homes, hence disrupting the visits. It also leads to comprising of work resettlement hence limiting the chances of prisoners securing houses upon release. Consequently, due to the challenges of acquiring jobs and houses, 74% of the inmates break the law again after release from overcrowded prisons as compared to 43% of inmates who do not face the challenges of Such has a very significant effect upon reoffending, with 74% of the prisoners who find a challenge in both housing and acquiring jobs resorting to reoffending after imprisonment, compared to 43% of ex-convicts who do not face the challenge of job or house acquisition.

Over the recent past, there has been an increase in the British population of prisons in relation to prisons estates struggling to cope with the increased demand. Inadequate resources in Europe have been a predominant contributor of overcrowding prisons. This is because building proper prisons which demands appropriate personnel on board is expensive, not to mention of the long duration of time they take to be established. Other factors that trigger overcrowding include failure to identify different programs to prison, inefficiencies with system of government, and insufficient funds for building prison programs hence retaining the contemporary population of controlled prisoners. As discussed earlier, among affected aspects of overcrowding are strained resources which possibly lead to all resources of prisoners might be in need of such as availability of washrooms, books, library, television lounge seating, as well as other necessary recreational materials unavailability of resources could cause 2-fold consequences. On the other hand, scarcity of resources is a predominant cause to inhuman and degrading consequences, of limited resources is a predominant cause of violence within the cells. Equally, overcrowding is attributed to depression, idleness, inability to and fear of the unknown. Again, it upholds the turning on of unwanted stimulations and interactions such as noise.


Overcrowded prisons are attributed to recidivism and unsuccessful intentions of imprisonment, which includes making an inmate better and more productive after prison.

Research Methodology

Qualitative and quantitative research methods are the two major categories of research methods. However, the researcher chooses to implement on a research method depending on the data type involved. This analysis involves the effects of behaviors of prisoners within prisons that are overcrowded. As such, I will use qualitative method of research.

According to Neil (2000), qualitative research method does not involve direct testing of cause and effect hence exists within the non-experimental methods. On the other hand, quantitative research evaluates the behavioral aspects which cannot be quantified. This analysis will not be based on number of occurrences but instead, it will be based on the content of occurrence.

Research Design

This analysis will implement on primary and secondary sources of data to evaluate the impact of overcrowded inmates in relation to inmates’ criminality and rates of recidivism in the society. For the secondary data, it will involve researching diverse academic literatures in relation to prison’s overcrowding effects. The analysis will access the info via various academic databases such as JSTOR, EBSCO (all databases), Google Scholar, Academic Search Complete, ERIC, and Academic Search Premier. The data collection will also make use of interviews and in questionnaires to evaluate the impact of overcrowded prisons on prisoners and recidivism

Data Collection

Data collection is one of the most predominant stages in research. (Connaway and Powel, 2010, p. 145-153) mistakes done in this stage is attributed to diverse negative impact of the entire research process consequent to inaccurate info. The methods of data collection have diverse impact of evaluation along the range of research, where one end is qualitative methods while the other end quantitative method. This analysis will collect data in two major approaches which are interviews and questionnaires to determine the effects of overcrowded prisons based on the inmate’s behavior and recidivism.

Target Population

The group of people that have been identified as the objectivity for the study is termed as the target population. It includes; a complete collection of objects, whose report is the key objective of the analysis. (Ott and Longneck, 2008, p.24) The target population of this analysis is the inmates in some of the overcrowded prisons in the United States.

Sampled Population

The size of population determines the size of population. Consequent to time and resource management, it is almost impossible to collect data from each individual from a population of a million individuals. Consequently, a group of people is targeted to represent the entire population. The selected population is named as a sampled population. In this analysis the target population involves millions of prisoners in overcrowded prisons. As such, the analysis will involve a sampled population. Otto and Longneck (2008) describes a “sample population as the subset of the target population” (p.24)

This analysis will hence select 4 overcrowded prisons in New York and Washington D.C, which consequently choose participants of the analysis by enhancing simple random sampling. As such, all subjects shall have equal opportunities to participate in the study. The sample population will include 10 prisoners from each prison hence making it a total of 40 prisoners. The sampled population shall include both genders. The analysis shall also engage 2 prison wardens from each prison making it a total of 8.

Interviews and Questionnaires


According to Kvale, (1996) an interview is described as “…an interchange of views between two or more people on a topic of mutual interest, sees the centrality of human interaction for knowledge production, and emphasizes the social situations of research data” ( p. 14)

The advantage of interviews is that the participants have grounds to express their views on specific ideas. In accord with Dale (2005, p. 36), interviews are common in qualitative data collection since they engage the interviewee to talk, which is natural (p. 36). However, one of the major limitations of interviews is that they are biased since they are based on the biasness among participants.

This analysis shall identify the participants possessing the characteristics of the target population. It will also predetermine the length of the interviews, and the question for the interview. The interview questions shall be both direct and indirect, data will be collected through listening while taking notes and a tape recorder. Each interview shall take about twenty minutes each.


Questionnaires are instruments of collecting data which involves a series of questions to collect data from the respondents. They are cheap to utilize, coupled with minimal efforts as compared with interviews and surveys. The answers are standard, making the process easy. As such, it is one of the commonly used of data collection. However, they are only limited to the literate, which is a major predicament. This is according to Connaway & Powel (2010, p. 145-153). The target population of this analysis is the prisoners which are both literate and illiterate. This is one of the challenges that we will face in research. With the assistance of 3 research assistants, the questionnaires shall be issued through hand delivery.


Consequent to data collection through interviews and questionnaires I will group it in different categories in inclination for analysis. The analysis will employ the use of open coding data analysis to make sense out of it, which will engage 4 major activities: (a) examination, (b) categorization, (c) tabulation, and (d) recombining. The open coding method of data analysis involves, identification, categorization, naming, and description of phenomenon, in this case the behaviors and opinions of prisoners in relation to overcrowding of prisons. The process involves describing each sentence, line, phrase, about the subject matter which is the prison’s overcrowding effects in relation to criminality and recidivism.

The analysis shall involve 3 major variables in determining the findings of the study (1) the number of times the prisoner has gone to jail , (2) The type of crime and previous crimes committed if any (3) the conduct of behavior within overcrowded prisons. For prisoners with more than one cases of jai will be asked to explain the status of the previous prisons based on the status of prison population. The prisoner s shall be asked to discuss their history of crime. The authorities of prison shall be required to discuss the experiences of their past experiences in relation to behaviors of inmates. There are high chances that the findings will indicate that overcrowded prisons do not achieve their primary objective which is to reform the prisoners. Again, behaviors of inmates in overcrowded prisons are negative in comparison to other correction and rehabilitation facilities. Overcrowded prisons are expected to have adverse effects on failure, coupled with a failure to achieving their sole objectives which is to reform citizens


The sole mandate of prison it to reform law breakers and make them better and responsible citizens. Nevertheless, in some cases, the circumstances of prison harden the prisoners only making them worse individuals in terms of behavior. The objective of prison hence becomes unsuccessful. Overcrowding is one of the major hindrances of successful objectives of prison. Many countries have insufficient resources to establish sufficient number of prisons to cater for the increasing demand for them. Overcrowded prisons are a hazard to the prisoners’ health both physically, behavioral, and psychologically. Overcrowding is also a major cause of recidivism. This analysis aims at evaluating the impact of overcrowded prisons on criminality of inmates and rates of recidivism. The results are expected to disclose that most prisoners have been in jail a few times before, which only points to unsuccessful goal of prisons, which is to reform inmates. The analysis is also expected to disclose that prisoners, who had more than one jail times, were in the present involved in a more dangerous crime than the first one.


Collins, J. (2010). Prison Overcrowding: Criminal Law and Justice Weekly. New York: Wildy & Sons Ltd. Connaway, L., & Powel, R. (2010). Basic Research Methods for Librarians. London: ABC-CLIO. Dale, G. (2005). Research Tips: Interview Data Collection. Journal of Developmental Education, 28(3), pp. 36-37. Gaes, G. (1985). The Effects of Overcrowding in Prison. Crime and Justice, 6, pp. 95-146.