Good Problems Of The American Correctional System Essay Example
The correctional system performs a number of significant functions in America. It is established by the state to provide safety and peace of mind to the law-abiding society by segregating them from people who are suspected of committing crimes and individuals who were already convicted of punishable violations. The system fulfill its role by incarcerating suspected and convicted criminals; thus, encouraging them to change their ways to gain probation and parole. Depending on the nature of offense and the longevity of the sentence, criminals are detained in either jails or prisons.
Jails and prisons are two important elements of a correctional system not just in America, but in every civilized nation. These two different institutions house different inmates and is run by different sectors of the government. Jails are under the administration of the local government, often headed by the county’s sheriff where persons who are waiting for their trials or serving short sentences are detained. (Broward Sheriff’s Office) On the other hand, prisons are run by the federal government spearheaded by the BOP or the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This is where people who were sentenced guilty of crimes serve their individual sentences. While the correctional system is established to detain the violators of laws and aim to correct their moral ideals so that they will be worthy of parole, the system itself faces one major problem- over population. The term sounds simple, but this problem branches out to several other problems that are disturbing both to the inmates and the general public outside.
Prison overcrowding is one of the major challenges of the correctional system of the United states. The number of prisons and jails are not sufficient to accommodate the rising number of prisoners every year. According to Dr. Gwendolyn Keita, “A staggering one in every 31 Americans—one in 18 men—now live under some form of correctional control, whether in jail or prison or on parole or probation, according to a March report from the Pew Center on the States.” (Keita 2009) This alarming data shows that the United States hold the highest rate of incarceration. In a 2013 investigative report written by Elizabeth Gudrais for the Harvard magazine, she states that Keita’s 2009 statistics have skyrocketed. The 2013 incarceration rate of America shows that “more than seven-tenths of 1 percent of the population (about 1 in 100 adults) are in prison.” (Gudrais 2013) This is an alarming distinction as only eight nations have incarceration rate of more than one-half of one percent.
Prison overpopulation is blamed to different culprits. Two of the major causes of the rising number of prisoners are the stricter laws concerning drug offenses, new penalties for crimes and increased sentences for those who committed heinous crimes or have committed repeated offense. Professor Emilio Viano of the American University calls these laws as Three-Strikes-You-Are-Out Laws and Truth-in-Sentencing provisions. (Viano n.p.) According to a report published by the Economist, “the United States currently has 41,000 inmates serving life sentences without parole, according to a recent report; England has just 41.” (J.F 2014) Furthermore, the author emphasizes that during the 1970’s, the incarceration rate of the United States was only one-fifth of its present rate. This rapid increase is due to the tough laws that was approved by the federal state to discourage people from violating laws against drugs and repeating same offenses. To note, roughly fifty percent of the prison population are drug offenders.
Overpopulation result to “mass incarceration” where the prisoners are randomly assigned to cells regardless of the nature of their offense and their physical and mental status. Overpopulation causes another serious problem in the American Correctional System that is the lack of facilities, personnel and programs that would cater the psychological and medical needs of the prisoners. Dr. Keita mentions that a great number of prisoners in the juvenile and criminal prisons suffer from mental instability and drug abuse disorder. She cites that “jails and prisons are not equipped to address these problems.” (Keita 2009) A report published by the National Institutes on health further affirms this claim. In a 2009 study conducted by Wilper et al. “The Health and Health Care of US Prisoners: Results of a Nationwide Survey,” among inmates with a mental condition ever treated with a psychiatric medication, only 25.5% of federal, 29.6% of local jail inmates were taking a psychiatric medication at the time of arrest, whereas 69.1% and 45.5% were on a psychiatric medication after admission.” (Wilper et al. 2009)
Because of this shortcoming, the system only offers a sense of homelessness to the prisoners who needs medical and emotional help. The presence of mentally-challenged individuals and people who can not recover from their drug dependency poses another problem to the rest of the inmates in a particular jail or prison. These people have a higher risk of behavioral and emotional problems and criminal activities that make the environment unsafe and prone to violence. Looking at another perspective, these mentally-illed individuals and drug addicts can be a bad influence to prisoners who are on the process of rehabilitation. In his article, “Why We Need Prison Reform,” Michael Suede points out that the less dangerous criminals (including drug users and other offenders of public orders) when imprisoned with other violent criminals would adopt their behavior. Thus, they would be a greater threat to the society once they are released to the outside world. This dark reality stresses the urgent need of America’s Correctional System to hire professional mental health practitioners who will develop programs that would address the needs of the incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, mentally challenged prisoners and those who faces utter difficulty of recovering from their substance abuse should be separated from the rest of the prisoners.
Because the number of inmates are extremely greater than the number of prisons and jails, these correctional institutions sacrifice the space for recreational and productive purposes for the sake of accomodating the massive number of detainees. While their physical freedom were temporarily forfeited, criminals are still entitled to humane treatment inside the bars where they can redeem themselves and reshape their attitude in their future re-encounter with the outside world. Aside from the scarcity of space, the health care services in the correctional institutions are also deficient. Wilper et al. reveal that “chronic medical conditions were common among inmates; 49 702 federal inmates, and 244 336 local jail inmates had at least 1 chronic medical condition. (Wilper et al. 2009)
The current problems and challenges in the correctional system of the United States ask for an immediate action. There must be a reform in the present system that will address the issue on overcrowded prisons that ultimately results to deficient health care programs and services, inadequate intervention for mentally-challenged prisoners and drug dependents and other negative consequences. The correctional system needs reform because it only focuses on punishment, incarceration and incapacitation. An effective correctional institution must aim to rehabilitate law offenders in the best possible way to make them worthy of release and deserving of a second chance to communicate and live with the outside world.
Keita, G. (2009). Improving our prison system begins with prevention. American Psychological Association, 40 (6). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/itpi.aspx
Wilper et al. (2009). The Health and Health Care of US Prisoners: Results of a Nationwide Survey. Public Health. 99 (4). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661478/
Grudais, E. (2013). The Prison Problem. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/03/the-prison-problem
J.F. (2014). America’s prison problem. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/03/americas-prison-pop ulation
Suede, M. (2012). Why We Need Prison Reform? Policy Mic. Retrieved from http://mic.com/articles/8558/why-we-need-prison-reform-victimless-crimes-are-86-o f-the-federal-prison-population
Viano, E. (n.p.). America’s Prison System. Retrieved from http://www.internationalpenalandpenitentiaryfoundation.org/Site/documents/Stavern/ 10_Stavern_Report%20America.pdf
What’s the difference between jail and prison? Broward Sheriff’s Office. Retrieved from http://sheriff.org/faqs/displayfaq.cfm?id=4f892698-5c5d-40f8-b159-c9a0b6ed66f3
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