Prison overcrowding has been identified as a major cause of inefficiency in correctional facilities in the USA thus calling for urgent measures to address it. According to Professor Craig Haney in ‘prison overcrowding: harmful consequences and dysfunctional reactions’, the number of prisoners has been rising at unprecedented rates since the 1970’s and early 80’s. Prison staff could no longer identify or track the inmates with their names as they previously did. It was clear that supervising and overseeing the inmates became a hard task for them.
These numbers have excessively risen worsening the plight of US prisons. Sadly, the funding of the prisons has not matched with the rising numbers making them unstable. (Haney 2). When prisons are overcrowded chances that the inmates will be worse off on release into the society are higher as evident from the increased recidivism rates. Various solutions to the problem have been aired including the reduction of the flow of inmates in the prisons. The other approach to tackling this problem is the expansion or construction of more prisons.
(Pollock 66). This option would be more effective as it would ensure enough space for efficient correctional programs to ensure that prisons are effectively reformed on re entering the society after completing their term. This paper will highlight the prison overcrowding problem in the US and its consequences before offering the most feasible solution. Most prisons in the US handle more than twice the capacity they ought to handle. A clear example of how severe this problem is the California prison which is among the largest prisons in US.
It is so crowded that some inmates are accommodated in the gyms as well as in the prison’s hallways. In a span of a decade the California prison had the population of inmates raise by approximately eight times. (Haney 2). To show the correlation of increased recidivism rates with the problem of prison overcrowding, records have it that California records 70% recidivism rates. (Steinhauer). Prison overcrowding has negative direct as well as indirect consequences on the inmates, the prison staff as well as the society at large. Inmates’ behavior, health and morale are negatively affected.
Stressful conditions will see them register health complications like high blood pressure and depression. When the prisons are overcrowded it becomes hard to identify their individual needs and hence handle them effectively. Some could be in prison due to mental problems and hence need mental services to resolve. Without proper screening, monitoring and management such inmates will re-enter the society worse off than they initially were. (Haney 2). Proper application of the set reform programs cannot be effective with the immense prison overcrowding.
The educational needs of the inmates would not be effectively addressed precipitating increased illiteracy levels. Without proper education it becomes hard for the inmates to easily reenter the highly competitive job market. This may leave some with no option than to commit more crimes as they seek for alternative methods of survival reinforcing the vicious circle of imprisonment. The high number of inmates does not match the limited prison industry programs or even the varying assignments offered in the prisons. (Haney 4).
This leaves them with ample idle time which exposes them to violent and destructive behavior that only works to worsen their successful reentry into the society. Moreover it has negative psychological effects on the inmates. The prison staff is also negatively affected by the problem as it demoralizes them when their efforts to see the criminals reformed are deterred by their overwhelming numbers. In desperation some prison staff may be forced to adopt harsh approaches against the inmates thus making the rehabilitative problem worse. (Haney 2-4).