Prison Conditions in the United States

Since many of the prisons in the United States do not classify inmates according to their types of offense, many of them provide opportunities for inmates to do more criminal activities. Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization, is very concerned with the rape of prisoners and the state of their medical care. According to a survey by Prison Journal, twenty-one percent of prisoners in the Midwest had been sexually violated during their term. Seven percent of these prisoners had been raped by their fellow inmates.

Human Rights Watch has good reason to be concerned with the medical care of prisoners since according to statistics, about twenty to forty percent of prisoners in the US are infected with hepatitis C among other diseases. Some prisons also outsource their medical care to private companies like Correctional Medical Services. While this lightens the load of the government to care for inmates, private medical care companies might take the opportunity to maximize their profits and minimize the care given to inmates (Whitfield, et.

al. , 1991, p. 6). Another serious effect of not segregating prisoners properly is gang violence. Gang members typically hold on to their gang affiliation and identity when they get imprisoned. Some prisons house different gang members in separate cells, which results in the incarceration of fellow gang members and friends. Gangs then are not abolished even while members are imprisoned. This may result in gang wars since gangs have plenty of opportunity to plan their activities against opposing gangs.

Many correctional facilities in the US are also overcrowded. For instance, California has thirty-three prisons that can hold 100,000 inmates, but they nevertheless house about 170,000 prisoners. As a result, these prisons turn old classrooms and gymnasiums into bunkhouses for detainees. Hundreds of beds are placed side by side in these locations, without anything to keep prisoners separated from each other. Prison rape, gang violence, and other prison crimes happen because of conditions like this (Whitfield, et. al.

, 1991, p. 7). The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, followed by China. According to 2007 statistics, 7. 2 million people are incarcerated, on parole, or on probation, with 2. 3 million behind bars. Also, in 2008, one in one-hundred adults in the US were incarcerated. Compare these numbers to that of China whose population is four times larger than the US. China only has 1. 5 million people behind bars, which is only eighteen percent of the incarceration rate in the US (Whitfield, et. al. , 1991, p. 7).

Human Rights Watch claims that the high incarceration rate of the US damages individuals and the society as a whole. Prisons in the US and the criminal justice system are also criticized for disproportionately holding a larger number of Africa Americans and other minority groups. Researchers have also found out that while the population in prisons is booming, morbidity rates are also increasing because inmates are more and more exposed to infectious diseases, such as HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis (Whitfield, et. al. , 1991, p. 8).