Solutions to Drug Abuse, Violence, and Overcrowding in American Correctional Facilities
Overcrowding in prisons is one of the most pressing problems in the current correctional system. Prison facilities across the world are increasing an influx in the number of inmates, resulting in the accommodation of inmates that surpass the capacity of the correctional facilities. While overcrowding is the observed problem, it is actually a sign of other deeper seated issues. For instance, the increase in the number of those incarcerated is linked to the increase in crimes such as violence and drug use. The overcrowding also has significant impacts. With increased number of inmates, problems such as drug use within the prison walls are increasing. Despite the presence of many prisons, the increase in the number of inmates has led to the use of prison facilities such as gymnasia in some states as prison cells (Spectre, 2010). Moreover, prisons are also increasingly taking measures such as triple bunking to accommodate more prisoners.
The causes associated with overcrowding in prisons are many. Some of the factors include increased participation of victim advocacy groups in the justice system, the prison expansion practices in many states, failure of prisoners to complete the community supervision process and low social status among the potential criminals. The effects of overcrowding in prison facilities are as diverse as the causes associated with this problem. It is reported that overcrowding in these facilities results in reduction of safety levels in the prisons, increased health risks and increased deficiency of the prison officials. The grave status of overcrowding in prison facilities calls for intervention, not only through expansion and building new prison facilities but also through reducing the levels of incarceration by finding alternative punitive measures. In addition to this, formulation of socio- economic policies that align with the needs of majority of potential criminals could also alleviate the level of engagement in crimes that warrant incarceration (UNODC, 2013).
There are also other actions that could be taken to reduce the population of inmates in prison facilities. Development of a community correction model that does not send offenders to correctional facilities is also another way through which overcrowding in prisons can be prevented. This is even more suitable for the low level drug users are they are the greatest population in prisons. This can be of greater benefit since various researches carried out on drug use in prisons have shown that the frequency of drug use in prisons is also increasing significantly (Feucht and Keyser, 2003). Although many prison authorities struggle through measures such as banning contrabands, particularly cell phone contrabands from the facilities, drug use in very difficult to reduce. This is because there is evidence that corruption and gangs play an important role in ensuring there is constant supply of drugs in prison. Visitors are also blamed with smuggling drugs into prisons hence should be monitored effectively.
Measures such as initiating a zero tolerance policy for drugs and operating rehabilitation programs for inmates within the facilities can aid in the reduction of the prevalence of drug use within prison facilities. The use of drugs is also linked to increasing violence among the prison inmates. Sexual violence and self inflicted violence are some of the most common acts of violence that are experienced in the prison facilities. Solitary confinement of violent prisoners is one of the ways that have been proposed for the prevention of violence among prison inmates (Morgan, 2009). Gang leaders can be put in confinement to help reduce violence. Educating guards on self defense can also help to reduce the prevalence of violence in prisons.
Feucht, T., E. & Keyser, A. (2009).Reducing Drug use in Prisons: Pennsylvania’s Approach. National Institute of Justice Journal
Morgan, W., J. (2009).”The Major Causes of Institutional Violence”. American Jails, 23(5), 63, 65–68
Specter, D. (2010).Everything revolves around overcrowding: The State of California’s prisons. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 22(3), 194-199
UNODC (2013).Handbook on strategies to reduce overcrowding in prisons. UNODC
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