Overcrowding in Prisons
Over the last three decades, the population in the prisons has been skyrocketing (Schmalleger&Smkla, 2015). This has led to the resources in the prisons being overstretched. Consequently, in an effort to serve the overcrowded prisons, the government is overspending. What are the causes of the overcrowding in prisons? This essay explores the main reasons for the overcrowding in the prisons and the methods being used to control the overcrowding.
The overcrowding in the prisons can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Firstly, there has been a drastic rise in the number of people that the prisons are receiving. According toSchmalleger and Smkla (2015), the number of people in the prisons was increasing at an average of 1.8% annually, from the year 2000 to 2012. Secondly, Schmalleger andSmklaargue that offenders are now serving a larger percentage of their sentence (2015). Between 1990 and 2004, the time served by the prisoners being released had doubled. This is due to changes in sentencing laws which has minimized the chances of an offender being released early. In addition, the overcrowding can also be as a result ofdrug-related cases. Initially, laws on drugs were mainly meant to net the drug kingpins but not the users (Schmalleger andSmkla, 2015). However, those being taken to prisons nowadays are the users, who are many, and not the drug dealers. The overcrowding can also be attributed to inadequate facilities in the prisons. For instance, high security beds are not enough in the prisons. The lack of adequate facilities, obviously, has led to overcrowding in the prisons.
To control the overcrowding in the prisons, the prosecutors should reduce the number of drug-related cases being taken to courts (James, 2013). This will ensure that fewer people are being taken to prisons on non-violent drug crimes. There is also need to allow drug offenders toserve shorter sentences (James, 2013). Judges should also be given much greater discretion over sentencing decisions. This will allow them to subjectthe defendants to reduced sentences which will save the government not only money but also bed years (James, 2013). The ‘truth-in-sentence’ requirement should also be lowered by allowing offenders to serve a lesser percentage of their sentence. The government should also expand the opportunities for the offenders to reduce their sentences through participation in drug treatment programs.
Evidently, overcrowding in prisons is an issue that can be fixed. This will require some laws and regulations to be changed. The judges will also need to be given some discretion on the sentencing and more prisoners should be allowed to participate in programs aimed at treatment and behavior change. This way, the population in our prisons will reduce.
James, N. (2013). The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Overview, Policy Changes, Issues, and Options (Vol. 42937). Congressional Research Service.http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc462245/m1/1/high_res_d/R42937_2013Jan22.pdf
Schmalleger, F. &Smykla, J. O. (2015). Corrections in the 21st century (7th ed.). New York, N.Y: McGraw-Hill Education.