Dangers of Overcrowding in American Correctional System
There are several central governments, state and local authority's correctional facilities in the United States. Over the past few decades, the rate of crime occurrence has significantly increased. Also, the correctional facilities have experienced growth in population. There are a huge number of inmates in the various correctional facilities as compared to those in 1990's. For instance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found the number of prisoners at 665,000 across the country; this is a 159% increase from the jail population of 1985. The correctional facilities have, suffered several setbacks due to the increase in the population.
The capacities of the correctional facilities in the United States are not sufficient to hold the large population of inmates; research from the report released in 2002 indicate that the facilities operate at 108% capacity from the 85% capacity held in 1983. This has made the facilities have a negative reputation and other associated problems. The questions of whether, these facilities are helping the society and the inmates or making the situation worse than it is already, have not been overlooked (T. Franklin; C. Franklin, Cortney & Pratt, 2006). The United States has the world's third largest jail in California, and, therefore, with the influx of the incarcerated; it is not astounding that she has the largest populace of convicts in the world. California's jail had a population of 155,500 in 2002, which is twice its holding capacity. The price for the rising numbers in the correctional facilities is exceptionally high. The problems in the facilities pose a much bigger challenge than the issue of the crime itself. The budgets for these facilities are being stretched to the limits, especially considering the present economic crisis. The fiscal budget of 2012 at the federal government for inmates was $6.6 billion, the second largest ever according to the Department Of Justice. In order to maintain these facilities and tackle the problems, costs have to be incurred. The problem is that the sectors that should handle the problem are facing immense challenges.
The cause of the ever rising population is imperative in understanding the dangers associated with the issue and the possible solutions to the problem. The large number of people taken to the jails is not a fault of the correctional facilities. It results from the society, the government and politics of the nation. The first and critical issue that leads to the issue of rising population is the rise of crime. Crime in the United States has taken a different cause (GAO, 2012). The crimes committed have expanded from the simple, minor crime acts, to more complex and personal crimes, such as drug trafficking, murder, suicide attempts, homicides, theft, cyber crimes and social crimes. The increased crime rate is, therefore, the largest factor that is contributing to the issue of overcrowding in the facilities.
The judicial system is also to blame for the rise of the numbers in jails. The people arrested are always handled by the courts before getting into the correctional systems. The courts, therefore, have the duty to ensure that they give reasonable judgment. Most criminals just plead not guilty because of reasons best known to them. However, the courts, know best how to differentiate a guilty and an innocent person (GAO, 2012). Therefore, long jail terms, are not the best punishing measures for most petty crimes. The policies of the courts should allow other alternatives for punishing offenders. The large populace of people being condemned to prison is, thus, a key contributing factor to the large number of inmates. The third cause is the failing police and security system. There is much room for criminals to engage in criminal acts thus as the police do not keep the offenders from committing the crime, they instead arrest them. Once arrested, these people are taken to the courts, where they are sent to the jails.
Moreover, there is the issue of limited space in the correctional facilities. The many correctional facilities in the country are not adequate to accommodate the rising population. The space is limited, the facilities, the staff and everything that contributes to the well being of the inmates (Franklin et al., 2006). Therefore, as the numbers continue to rise; the facilities become smaller, hence overcrowding problems emerge. The management of these systems is also a key factor that contributes to overcrowding. As the population increases, the management does not expand correctional facilities to accommodate the inmates. Therefore, the issue continues to exacerbate, resulting to overcrowded facilities that are evident in the entire country.
The correctional facilities are for the purpose of accommodating the offenders. They are there to facilitate them with a chance and opportunity to realize that they need to change; so that they can be acceptable in the society (Davis, Applegate, Otto, Surette & McCarthy, 2004). A correctional facility is not a place for punishment and retribution as many would think. This, however, is the case that is unfolding in the society. The inmates are being overlooked and ignored in the thought that they are social outcasts. The inmates are viewed as not being human; therefore they can live like the 'animals'. This has heightened the risks associated with the problem of overcrowding. There are several problems and risks that are experienced due to overcrowding jails. The problems involve the whole correctional system, and the society at large. The staff of the facilities, the inmates themselves, the relatives of the prisoners and the whole country is equally affected. The dangers of overcrowding are immense and affect the whole system of correcting offenders.
The dangers associated with the overcrowding in these facilities are such that the misconduct of the inmate increases, leading to criminal activities in the facilities. According to theoretical frameworks of psychology, the behavior of the individual is highly determined by the environment (Franklin et al., 2006). Therefore, the environment influences correctional facilities in the same way. Subjection of prisoners to harsh environments makes them develop certain characteristics and altitudes, which determine the survival in the facility. Consequently, these conditions influence the behavior of all the inmates. The characteristics developed are as a result of the struggles in the jail. For the inmates to survive in the environment, they must get assimilated into the system. This makes them conduct themselves in a manner that is not right. The inmate, instead of developing positive conduct from the facility, they accumulate and assimilate more of the unwanted survival tactics and behavior from the facility. This is dangerous as it can pose problems when the inmate is released. Overcrowding, therefore, has a direct relation with the discipline of the inmates in the correctional facility. Placing the large number of offenders in the same place, where they have close contact easily develops into negative relations. Influence of human behavior is transferred from one inmate to the other as they interact.
The correctional facilities have several problems that pose a danger to the convicts and the staff from prisons. These are situations such as outbreak and spread of diseases (Franklin et al., 2006). A good illustration is the case observed in the California prisons. The inmates had to sue the authorities and the government for neglect and inhuman treatment for the unhygienic conditions, malnutrition and disease outbreaks in the prisons. It was the overcrowding within the facilities that led to the occurrence of the outbreak. Some facilities, such as the one in West Virginia reported that some inmates do not have space to sleep. They end up sleeping on the floor in the small available cells. The crowded facilities provide the convenient place for disease causing micro-organisms to breed and infect. Overcrowding creates a stuffed environment, in which there is no free circulation of air. Moreover, the overcrowded places usually, do not have a good cleaning system and practice. This consequently contributes to the spread of all communicable diseases within these facilities. Epidemics, such as cholera, tuberculosis among others easily spread through the crowded environment. This is because of the close contact between the infected and uninfected inmates. Thus, overcrowding is detrimental to the health and welfare of the inmates. It is a threat to their lives and can easily lead to unwanted deaths to the inmates and the staff. The well-being of the inhabitants of these prisons and the staff of the facilities are threatened by overcrowding in the correctional facilities.
In addition, mental health problems emanate due to overcrowding in the correctional facilities. The mental health of a person is greatly determined by the environment that the individual lives. An overcrowded place will, probably because it is an environment that is stressful to the inmate. The activities and events that culminate within the overcrowded facilities can cause a lot of stress to the inmates. A good illustration of the effect of overcrowding in the prison facilities is found from the statistics of suicides within the prison facilities (GAO, 2012). Out of every five suicides in jails, one is as a result of…