Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prison Overcrowding

                As we all know, our prisons are extremely overcrowded.  It is not just our prisons either; our entire criminal justice system is bursting at the seams.  Court cases are constantly being delayed, states attorneys and public defenders are always bogged down, and with this many people in the system it is no surprise that our prisons are overflowing. 

According to the  Department of Corrections the prison population in Illinois has risen from 7,326 in 1970 to 48,620 when data was last released.  There have been a few main reasons why our system has become so overcrowded.  One of the biggest reasons for prison population increase is the War on Drugs that was implemented.  Since 1993 drug offenders in the system have grown at an amazing rate of 57.2%.  The female population has also had quite an impact.  It has grown tremendously at 49.3% over the past ten years.  There has also been a gradual rise of violent offenders coming into the system and since they are incarcerated longer they have played a role in the overcrowding. 

   One of the biggest problems with this rising population is that there is no money.  Therefore it is hard to keep up with hiring guards to watch these inmates.  With some of them being housed four to one cell, the chances of them being able to hide contraband and think of ways to manipulate the guards is high. This also increases the risk for gang activity, which is already a major issue for most prisons. Not to mention that a lot of the offenders going in are non violent and when in such close proximity to these other offenders, they end up learning their behavior and coming out with more problems than what they went in with.  Another big issue is recidivism.  These people are getting out of prison and just turning around and coming right back in.  Our system needs to be one that rehabilitates, which is a lot easier said than done, but I am sure it is even more impossible to do with such overcrowding.  The governor of our state, Pay Quinn, had purposed a plan to shut down some prisons and correctional facilities.  This is just confusing because we already do not have enough room for the prisoners we have now, so how is moving them to already overcrowded prisons going to help?

                This issue is not one that is going to be solved overnight, but something has to be done about this.  We need new plans and innovations from our government to fix this ever increasing problem.  There has to be some sort of answer out there to alleviate some of these pressures on the system.
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  1. Nice job on this. Overcrowding is a serious problem, but without the right funding and space, this will inevitably happen everywhere. What scares me is that you have violent offenders living that close to one other (looking at your picture provided). In that room alone, there appears to be about 100 people sleeping within 3 feet of each other. I get annoyed living and sleeping with a roommate in the same room, let alone 99 roommates that have a history of violent crime.

  2. I know there are many situations similar to the one in the picture you provided happening across the country. A major drawback that occurs from such rampant overcrowding within prisons is the loss of programs for offenders. I know in many cases when they need space for more inmates and can not fit any more in to cells they will start stacking cots in program facilities such as the gym or mess hall. With that many people so close together you also have to deal with an increase in violent behavior as well as threats of personal health in terms of the spreading of disease. I like that you brought up how the issue has spread through out the criminal justice system at the beginning of your writing. It reminded me of something interesting that I heard in an Into to Paralegals Studies class last semester in that the average amount of time it now takes to settle a civil case in small claims court is about five years, yikes. It makes me wonder why some people even still bother following through with lawsuits when they potentially have to wait that long for a return after investing so much of their own money in the situation.

  3. Anna, I actually just posted an article on Quinn shutting down the Tamms and Dwight priosns. I feel it would be a bad move, first for the employees. I mean where do they go? are they going to get a transfer, or sent somewhere to continue work? and like you said already, it seems pointless to close a prison that is created to house individuals that break the law. Now if their is overcrowding as we do know, then why are you going to send more inmates to an already way over crowded prison after you shut two down?
    I feel the budget does need to be altered and re distributed, but Quinn needs to devise a better strategy because our prison system is at a D- only because all of the inmates turn around and come right back into the system. I mean we are not teaching or helping them create a new standard for living a crime free life. I feel our counties entire DOC of is messed up and needs a lot more attention then a budget cut.

  4. Prison overcrowding is a very important issue for criminal justice students to be concerned with. As you said it drastically increases the amount of threat correctional officer's must face. Also, as Jared mentioned the picture above depicts how overcrowded living quarters can be which increased the likelihood of disease and as well the assault on officers. I fear this is a never ending issue that the criminal justice system will allows be faced with. Lack of funding will always pose a threat to overcrowding, much like it currently is with the governor attempting to close a supermax prison and a female intake prison.

    The statistics in this blog are extremely useful in pointing out how severe the prison population problem is. It also shows how inactive the correctional system's funding is because majority of the state's correctional facilities where built in the 1970's when the incarceration numbers where a fractions of what they are now. This is an important issue for criminal justice students to watch and follow; however, I do not believe we will see much dramatic change within Illinois.

  5. The problem is evident. It's in our face. So that takes care of the first step:realization. Next would come a solution. It seems that our Governor Pat Quinn's solution is to close some of these prisons. But wait, how is that hardly a solution to the overcrowding problem? The simple answer is that it isn't. Rather, it is a step in the solution to a larger, all encompassing problem and that is the state's financial problem. After the government decided it wanted to get tough on crime and started locking up enormous amount of citizens, I wonder if they took a hard enough look at long term sustainability. It appears they haven't, although I hope I'm wrong. I agree with Aaron in saying that I don't foresee a fix for the problem in the near future. Prisons cost money; money that we don't have. So right now the answer is "close the prison" to help alleviate strain on the budget. It's terribly unfortunate but you see this trend in many other states as well.

  6. This is one of the biggest issues in the Criminal Justice system today. The ending of the war on drugs is a possibility to help solve this problem. I think the closing of certain prisons would also help to the solve the issue because some prisons cost far to much money to run and operate. This would free up money to be used in more efficient prisons. I also agree though with Anthony and Arron though on the fact that this issue will not be solved in the near future. It has been a problem for a while and there still really has been no fix. However, this issue need to find a solution soon and hopefully with this rising awareness of the problem it will get solved or fixed soon.