Prison overcrowding is an unsettling national problem to the United States and Canada. The United States has the biggest prison population in the world and Canada's is the fourth. The race for limited resources has been consistently outpaced by the continuous increase in the prison population. This study explores the causes and factors of prison overcrowding and inexpensive ways of addressing or solving it. It uses the combined qualitative and quantitative methods of research in collecting the needed data. Tools in the research are monthly statistical report of prison system surveys with inmates, staff, and the stakeholders. California, Nebraska, Connecticut and the Carbon County presented their respective but inexpensive ways of reducing continuously increasing prison populations. California and Nebraska's approaches have demonstrated successes. California now implements its 5-yar plan, involving non-prison felonies, their automatic transfer to facilities other than in prison. The plan has realized a $459 savings. Nebraska, on the other hand, has been implementing LB 907, which not only reduces prison overcrowding. At the same time, it reduces recidivism rates and costs. This program embodies 4 main points by which it brings down prison population in an inexpensive manner.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents 2
I. Introduction 3
The topic and its importance
Overview of the Topic
II. Method/s 4
Nature of the study
Conduct of the study
Choice of Group
III. Results 4.
IV. Discussion 11
Analysis and interpretation of results
Reasons for findings
Meaning of findings
Importance of the Study
Overcrowding in the United States and Canada has been an extremely draining issue (John Howard,1996) A continuously swelling prison population and the corresponding decrease in correctional spending and overall resources are the overall causes behind it. The prison population has breached limits of the facilities. Various studies have shown that overcrowding in prisons results in stiff competition over limited resources, disorder and aggression, increased rates of illness as well as recidivism and suicide rates. This continuously deteriorating situation calls for prompt but inexpensive intervention and application of effective methods to reduce overcrowding (Howard).
While the rate of violent crime fell in the last decade and a half, 2011 crime statistics say that 14,500 people were murdered that year alone, largely by gun fire (Mangino, 2012). Others lose their lives or property or functioning by burglary, robber or aggravated assault. Those apprehended and convicted are imprisoned. By the latest count, there are more than 6.6 million of them in prisons, jails or are under community supervision, Incarceration has greatly drained taxpayers' money. As of 2011, 15 states passed respective sentencing reform laws in order to reduce costs. The Government Accountability Office reported that overcrowding has adverse effects on the inmates themselves, the facility staff and the infrastructure. It also said that the Federal, Bureau of Prisons operations have gone beyond the 39% maximum capacity on a nationwide basis. It noted that the prison population increased by 9.5% more than the 7% adjustment in infrastructure and additional beds. This has resulted in 2 or 3 inmates sharing a single bed. Director Harley G. Lappin of the Federal Bureau of Prisons relayed sordid details to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2011. He said that as of January 2011, 94% of high-security inmates were double-bunked, 16 medium-security inmates and 82% low-security were triple-bunked. He emphasized that this was not the original intent and design of the inmate housing. Without the right programming promptly administered, current overcrowding can produce mental illness, drug and alcohol abuses and aggression. Frustration can also mount and lead to "acting out (Mangino, 2012), or get released without their crimogenic needs addressed and treated. The current administration recognizes that the situation strongly urges for a new direction (Mangino).
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the California appellate court to reduce would be prisoners by 137%, equivalent to 109,400, in two years' time from 2011 (CCN, 2011). The state's sentencing reforms under a five-year plan would reduce the number of convicts who will be imprisoned rather than mass releasing those already in. The reforms identify "no-prison" felonies, alternatives to custody, a more generous credit system and those with shorter sentences serving in county jails (CCN).
A major prison reform law, introduced by Senator Brad Ashforf of Omaha, was Nebraska's response to this problem (Kintner, 2014). The state's prison system has reportedly exceed its original design by 155%. The bill, LB 907, would establish new ways of reducing prison overcrowding while keeping citizens safe, controlling costs and reducing recidivism. Its four summarized points are to computer-track paroled prisoners, release of prisoners who have served 80% of their sentence, locate areas with shortage of legal practitioners, and a justice reinvestment working group to cooperate with the state government on reducing prison population (Kintner).
Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein discussed the benefits of certain measures to bring down the inmate population in their locality with the county prison board (Miller, 2014). He and his group observed certain practices by a day reporting center in Luzerne County. Practices include allowing non-violent offenders, such as DUI violators, to serve part of their sentence outside prison but under certain conditions; and sentencing a violator partly by incarceration and partly by reporting to the center. Reporting to the center may be complemented with treatment and attendance at an advanced program or programs (Miller).
The State of Connecticut identified the causes and factors of prison overcrowding (CT, 2000). Factors, which frequently lead to crime and imprisonment, include the lack of education or employment, family and social problems, poverty, drug and alcohol use, companionship with those involved in some criminal activity, and mental illness. It also named five factors, which impact prison overcrowding. The first is a group of sub-factors, which explain why the population increased despite the decrease in crime rates and arrests. The second is the continued incarceration of convicts for much of their court sentence. The third is the "tough on crime" policy. The fourth is the lack of the number of beds for all the inmates, but especially adequate high-security beds for high-risk prisoners. And fifth consists of inaccurate population projects and the needs of all the offenders, especially the inmates (CT).
How can prison overcrowding be reduced in the most economical way?
Nature of the Study
This is a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, but with greater emphasis on the qualitative approach. It will record, describe, interpret, analyze and compare updated and relevant data from authoritative sources.
Conduct of the Study
It will review and analyze monthly statistical reports of major facilities of the prison systems in California, Connecticut and Nebraska and Carbon County; conduct surveys, interviews on the inmates, staff, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders in these states; and distribute questionnaires to them Analysis will center on the causes and effects of overcrowding, an identification of their conditions, and the sentencing options used by these States and localities.
Why the Choice of the Group
Prisoners have been increasing in number in facilities while the resources for these facilities are decreasing. The result is overcrowding. This crisis must be address and compare with the decrease in crime rate and arrests.
These are law enforcers -- the police and the sheriffs -- judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation and parole officers, victims and their advocates, the offenders, social service representatives, probation officials and mental health directors.
Highest-rating in the World
Of the 15 countries studied, the United States had the highest imprisonment rate at 529 per 100,000 population in 1996 (John Howard, 1996). Canada ranked fourth globally. Effective solutions to prison overcrowding in both countries' correctional facilities are still eagerly sought and tried. But any measure of success cannot be only in the form of moving inmates from crowded alternatives and to incarceration. Alleviating this worsening problem requires the maximum expansion of eligibility for community supervision programs. And if eligibility will include all the types of offenders in prisons, the level of public safety in communities will have to correspondingly increase. Supervision of community programs should also intensify. When this happens, the entire scenario will resemble that of prisons themselves structurally and in terms of cost (John Howard).
Disastrous Effects and New Direction
Mangino (2012) outlines the adverse effects of overcrowding on both inmates and the staff in case of a lack of the proper programming. Mental health, anger and drug and alcohol use will develop and grow un-checked. There will also be an increase of frustration among the inmates and a consequent "acting out." And they will be released without their crimogenic needs being addressed, which is the very purpose of incarceration. The lack or loss of privacy on account of overcrowding will further increase tension. This can, in turn, lead to aggressive behavior among themselves and towards the staff. And there is insufficient prison personnel, their supervision duties will increase. They and the inmates themselves become more vulnerable as a result. The…