Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Extreme overpopulation in U.S prisons

There is a continuous growth in our prisons each year and this is due to the mandatory sentencing guidelines and continuous growth in drug convictions each year. Our prison systems are very overcrowded even though it says they are operating under the state capacities, but really some prisons are operating at 33% or higher then their official capacities. This is a huge problem in the criminal justice system because not only are we running out of room for these offenders, but it is costing us a pretty penny to keep them locked up. It is estimated that states spent a record $51.7 billion dollars in the fiscal year of 2008 in the prison system. To me that number is just outrageous and something needs to be done soon to bring that number down. On average each year the cost to keep a prisoner locked up is around $29,000 dollars. What troubles me is how many people are locked up for what seems to me as harmless and victim less crimes. What makes much more sense to me is instead of sending these offenders to jail more people should be allowed to participate in probation programs or even drug programs to keep them out of prison. This would cost much less money then locking them up. On average the annul cost to send someone through probation is around $1,250 and through parole is $2,750 dollars. Now, I am not saying lets send murders or child molesters free. I am only saying that some people in the prison system should not be there and it is actually costing us taxpayers more harm then good. Specially since over the last 25 years prison and jail population has grown 274% that number is just staggering.

Now this insane increase in population has serious effects on the people being imprisoned, specially if they really should not be there in the first place. Incarceration impacts the lives of families in a few different ways. First off and most obviously it strains them financially. This is a huge problem not only for the person being locked up, but for the possible family they have now left behind. It also disrupts parental bonds which has a major effect on the possible child growing up without a father or mother. Also being locked up can cause marriages to fail and end in divorce. These are just some negative consequences for people being imprisoned. For the people that deserve to be in prison these are the consequences that they deserve and have to deal with and handle, but to people who are locked up for non serious offenses it really causes more harm to taxpayers, the person, and their family then helps.

We really need to change the way we go about locking people up, in many ways. I by no means have the answers to this extremely difficult problem, but the first step is to make people aware to this problem. Hopefully  by raising awareness ideas and solutions will also arise. The main reason nothing is being done is due to the amount of money being made when prisoners are shipped off to private prisons. Here is a video showing some of the major problems with our current prison system VIDEO. This is a very serious situation and if nothing is done soon we wont have anywhere to put all these prisoners.



  1. It is insane how we spend that much money a year on prisons and keeping people incarcerated but we can not spend money on school by helping kids get a good education, so they won't end up in prison. I agree totally on what your saying, instead of just locking them up why don't we help them become better citizens, because they are just going to keep doing the same thing over and over, wasting our tax payer money. I think people who do crime rather its violent or a non serious offense, they put their own family in that predicament. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they choose to do it anyways, so they still deserve the consequences they put on their selves and their family. We do have to change the way we are locking people up, but its going to be a very hard process, when we have been doing the same thing for years.

  2. I agree that something needs to be done about the overpopulation of the prison system in our country. I do not believe that we should give more lenient sentences to violent criminals, but legislatures should propose a way to treat minor offenders, such as drug users, within the community. Not only are prisons expensive to operate, they are also useless in regards to rehabilitating inmates. Many programs have been eliminated from prisons that were designed to treat inmates. Without a way to treat the inmates, recidivism rates continue to increase. This means that when we do finally release an inmate they are likely to return in the near future. It is also unfortunate that our states spend so much money building prisons when this money could be used improving our education system and funding social service programs, such as mental health treatment. Illinois, in particular, spent over 150 million dollars building Thomson Correctional Center, which was designed to be a maximum security prison, but instead it has just sat empty and decaying for nearly a decade. Now, the state only hopes they may sell it to the Federal Government to house Federal inmates. I wish politicians could be realistic for once and create more community correction and diversion programs that are more cost efficient and have proven to be more successful in lowering recidivism rates. But, unfortunately politicians are profiting from private prisons and fear they will not be reelected if they stray away from being tough on crime and instead opt to finance a way to ease the prison population and to help the at risk population to get help and become law abiding citizens.