“United States is one of the countries where the justice system has become very strict on the law breakers,” (Dana Joel). The sentencing on the offenders has led many of them to terms in jail even those with minor penalties or those who are non violent and could be rehabilitated. This gives a continued growth of the prison population which has led to overcrowding of prisons. “The total population in the U. S prisons is estimated to be around 65,000 both in the local and the states prisons. Maintaining each prisoner will require finance of about $20,000 annually,” ( Jens, p35).
The cost of maintaining such a population in prison is putting a lot of pressure on the tax payers of which it costs them about $18 billion every year. It has become very necessary for the state to consider reforming the justice system in order to reduce the prison population. “In California for example the critics of law have blamed the three-strike law for the over crowding in the states prisons,” (Solomon). This law has convicted many individuals to jail for many years with some serving a life imprisonment for felonies that could be easily rehabilitated.
In addition to this, all the prisoners in California are subjected to parole even if they have served their full sentence. On the other hand most of these parolees will finally end up in prison for other violations. It has been suggested that it is very necessary to reduce the prison population in such a state by concentrating on short sentences, diverting the non-violent prisoners to the county programs and consideration of the parole reforms. Such reforms to reduce the prison population are estimated to cut the cost of prisoners’ maintenance . Other major reasons for overcrowding in the U.
S prisons is the jailing of the drug related offense. The offenses are usually minor but the convictions given to them render them for jail terms which put more pressure on the prison population. II. Thesis statement Prison overcrowding has been a problem in society for decades. Because of the economy being in a recession it is important that the tax payers dollars are being spent to effectively keep us safe while dealing with the problem of overcrowding in prisons. Some would agree with building more prisons, but there are cheaper alternatives to this particular situation.
III. Probation A. Half-way houses Individuals who have reformed in prison should no longer be held in the prison. Such individuals should be housed in what is referred to as the half way houses where they are given a chance to integrate with the society as the authorities still monitor them. “Such facilities are usually provided to those individuals who the authorities may not be absolutely sure of their relapse once they are place back to the society,” (Dorothea, p67). They are more of recovery houses where they are monitored on the recovery programs.
The authorities should adopt such a program especially for those individuals who have no previous criminal record. Such facilities can also be used for those individuals who are convicted of drug related cases and those who have very limited time remaining in jail. Individuals on bail should also be housed in such facilities instead of prisons. “In the early 1990’s complains on the state of the county jails led to expansion for most of them but the number and the period of time to which most detainees are held have led to wastage of space,” ( McCain, p101).
Most of the county jails have actually been underutilized especially for those that have not been leased out. Many beds are not occupied for a period. The government should therefore make arrangements with the county jails of how they could segregate the space and house the low risk offenders in the county jails instead of prisons which will reduce by a large magnitude the overcrowding in the prison. B. Low risk offenders do time in county jails Jails in the United States are different from the prisons.
The jails are normally operated by the county governments. Most of the inmates who are detained in these county jails are those who are awaiting trial or those who have sentences that are less than one year. A majority of the detainees are however those who have not been sentenced. The county jails are therefore having a lot of free space which can be leased out to the government. “The low risk offenders should not be taken to prison instead they should be housed in the county jails since most of them have very minimal sentences to serve,” (Roger, p34).
Construction of new prisons for individuals who will serve a short term will be very expensive for the state. IV. Private prisons A. Smaller prisons It is believed that privatization of prisons would help to reduce the problem of congestion in the prisons. Most states have the approach that smaller private prisons would actually cut their cost of maintaining the prisoners. Almost half of the states in the U. S have adopted the approach of private prisons to reduce congestion in the prisons. Through privatization the duty of maintaining the prisoners is moved from the government to the private sector.
The government can either contract out prison services by hiring the private firms which will provide services such as medical services, drug rehabilitation education, and counseling among other services. “The government could also allow private firms to own and operate prisons on their own or contract out prison labor,” (Dana, 1988). Through contracting the smaller prisons, the government will be able to solve the problem of holding over 100% of inmates in the government prisons. Private prisons are also said to have better services in terms of correctional facilities.
The private prisons are also under strict rules and this means that overcrowding in them would not occur. This would solve the many problems that are faced in the government prisons which result from over crowding. Smaller prisons would also serve better in terms of correctional and rehabilitation facilities instead of using the government prisons. Such small prisons would not be occupied for long since the individuals housed in the smaller prisons would only be there to reform and then they are released. “Contracting smaller prisons would also enable to easily categorize the inmates and put them under different custody.
For example some prisons would be contracted for the special cases such as rehabilitation, drug treatment, mental services, those who have life imprisonment among other categories,” (Charles, p115). Small private prisons usually have specified correctional systems and services offered by such facilities are therefore restricted to certain types of prisoners. B. More focus on rehabilitation Rehabilitation programs as suggested by Governor Schwarzenegger would help to reform the prisoners before they are released out of prison.
Rehabilitation programs help the prisoners to be more focused on their mistakes and take an initiative to change. The government can offer the rehabilitation mainly to the offenders of petty crimes, drug related cases and the non-violent offenders. Through rehabilitation the government would be improving on the safety measures of having such individuals back to the society. The prison should concentrate on the educative programs such as those related to drug abuse, counseling, life skills and education to enable such individuals cope with life after prison.
“The rehabilitation programs should be a continuous service both for the inmates serving long sentences and also for the parolees,” (Peter, p255). Rehabilitation programs should be viewed as correctional measures for the inmates which saves the government the cost of having them in prison every now and then. They should be continuously reviewed to ensure that such programs are effective. Inmates who conform to the rehabilitation programs and are fit for the society should not be held in prison for long since they have proven to conform to change and have adhered to the correctional measures.
If inmates are safe to be brought back to the society they should be released to reduce overcrowding in prison. The previous rehabilitation programs on the parolees have been very successful and have given rise to positive results. The rehabilitation programs within the prisons also reduce the number of criminals who exist in the society in future. The rehabilitation programs should also be gender sensitive. This has indicated a higher rate of success other than the general rehabilitation programs. Female offenders are especially very responsive to the programs and are easily reformed through the rehabilitation programs.
“The success of the rehabilitation programs will however depend on the quality of the staff that is mandated with the role of rehabilitating the inmates. Assessment of the success of the programs should be done frequently to ensure quality performance,” (Shaphan, p49). C. More intensive job training “The rehabilitation programs that are offered for the inmates should be focused on the job training skills to enable the inmates have the ability to work and get a living after prison,” ( Michael, p116).
The enacted job skills will work to reduce the possibility of such inmates to commit crime and end up in prison again. Most of the offenders in prisons are usually school drop outs and they usually lack any form of education to get meaningful jobs. Lack of employment is what leads most of them to crime because of frustration for lack of the ability to cater for their finances. Previously the prisons concentrated on the job training skills in the agricultural sector but today there are very few opportunities of securing jobs in such an industry after prison.
“The job training skills in the prisons should be diversified to other sectors in order to enable such individuals secure jobs within the market after prison,” (Gordon, p42). Other skills that should be more intensified for the uneducated inmates should include construction job skills, cement work, welding, carpentry, electrical work among other skills. Most of the inmates who are trained in prison especially in the construction industry always get jobs within the industry. Well maintained job training within the prisons ensures that the inmates get to have security of life after prison.
The frustration of being unemployed becomes a thing of the past and with the assurance of better life most of them are willing to reform. The job training within the prisons equips them not only with the skills but also the required experience for getting well paying jobs within the market. Most offenders in prison are subjects of little or no education and this is the major reason for them to turn to crime as a means of living. Putting such individuals under the intensive job training and adult education gives them hope in life and a chance to turn away from crime and live decent lives. V.
Decriminalization Non violent offenders sent to rehabilitation The justice system has failed in matters related to the segregation of the violent and the non-violent offenders. Building of more prisons will only be too costly for the states especially at this time when the economic recession has led to many deficits. Construction of more prisons as suggested by Graney will only add to the cost of maintaining the prisoners which puts more pressure on the tax payers. Only about half of the population in the prisons is convicted of violent crimes while the rest are convicted for non-violent offenses.
Conviction of the non-violent individuals has led to the reduction of prison space. Rehabilitation of the non-violent offenders has been considered by Governor Schwarzenegger through signing the AB 900 and the public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007. Even though these reforms have not been very successful in reducing the overcrowding in prisons, they are a major step towards reforming and reducing the problem of overcrowding in prisons. Rehabilitation of offenders has been considered very important for the offenders in prison.
Through rehabilitation the offenders will be able to serve their parole without violations and this reduces their chances of going back to prison. Rehabilitation also helps the prisoners to consider changing their lives after prison and this may work to reduce possibility of such prisoners committing other crimes that may bring them back to prison. “Some of the suggested rehabilitation programs in the prisons include treatment on individuals with substance abuse related cases, vocational education and mental services,” (Fact sheet).
The AB 900 legislation would increase rehabilitation by freeing space if the bad beds are removed. The legislation not only recommends rehabilitation in prisons but it also advocates for the rehabilitation at the community based level. Rehabilitation should always be given to the prisoners at a stipulated period before their release. This helps them to reform after prison and change their lifestyle that would bring them and other victims back to prison. The non- violent individuals are safe to be brought back to the society and they would be easier to conform to change through such rehabilitation programs.
Keeping them in prison for a long time does not do them any good as the rehabilitation programs would do. This would reduce the overcrowding in the prisons by a large margin. B. Decrimalization on drugs Decriminalization of drugs refers to the act of a state to legalize the use of drugs. It could also refer to the reduction of sentences for the offenders who have broken laws on drugs. “In the United States a high percentage of individuals use drugs and the government concentrates with the conviction of individuals who break the laws on drugs.
This however has only given rise to cost of maintaining a prison population consisting of about 11% due to drug related cases,” (Dean, p31). The cost of maintaining the offenders on drugs has not been successful in reducing the number of individuals trafficking or using drugs. The best reform would be decriminalization of such drugs and then use the state resources to educate people on the harmful effects of drugs and on the other hand regulate the sale of such drugs. Law breakers should also be given low sentences to reduce the period of time they spend in prison.
Such individuals should alternatively be rehabilitated instead of being punished through long periods in prison. This would reduce the number of individuals who are convicted of the drug offenses and thus reduce the prison population. The drug related offenses are usually related to either possession or selling of drugs. Decriminalization of such cases which are related to drugs would actually double the space in the prisons. The state should use its resources to regulate the sale of drugs instead of convicting individuals who are caught with such offenses.
Reforms should be directed towards public health programs that would educate individuals on the effects of using drugs. Putting drug offenders in prison does not solve the problems related to drugs and therefore it does not reduce the number of individuals who are jailed yearly for offenses related to drugs (Gene). If the society is not sensitive on the use of drugs, there will be a growing number of offenders every day and this will only increase the number of individuals convicted of either being in possession or selling of drugs. C. Felony offenders stay in prison.
Felony offenders are those who have committed very serious crimes. Such crimes include Assault, arson, grand theft, treason, murder and rape among others. “The prison population should only be consisting of such individuals who are a great threat to the society,” ( Robert, 336) This would only leave the prisons with about half of its current population if the non-violent and the drug related cases were removed from prison and placed in the rehabilitation centers. Most of the felony offenders are convicted of many years in prison or life imprisonment.
The government should concentrate with having only this class of offenders in prison and contract the private prisons for the other minor offenders. It would be more reasonable for the government to maintain only the felony offenders in prison and house the individuals with shorter sentences elsewhere in the private prisons, county jails or halfway houses. This would work to reduce the prison population and thus solve the problem of over crowding. “Maintaining only the felony offenders would enable the government reduce cost of maintenance in prisons and save the tax payers the pressure of such cost.
The removal of inmates with shorter sentences will reduce prison population by a large margin,” (Michael, p127). However, even if the prisons are only housing the felony offenders, the justice system should be reformed to reduce the number of inmates convicted for long periods in prison since this would eventually lead to the same problem of over crowding over time. VI. Conclusion In conclusion, prison overcrowding in the United States has been a problem over a long period. The strict convictions on the offenders makes them spend a lot of time in jail and thus the space available for their housing is very minimal within the states prisons.
“The judicial system has failed to segregate the offenders who have been committed of different types of crime,” (Charles, p119). The situation is alarming since it gives rise to other problems within the prisons such as poor sanitation and instances of violence. This has necessitated many reforms within the prisons to reduce over crowding. One of the most effective reforms suggested is the rehabilitation of the offenders in order to prepare them for life after prison. This enables them to reform and live better lives free of crime and thus reduce their chances of getting back to prison.
The government can also concentrate with contracting of the private prisons, halfway houses or the county jails to house the offenders who are serving very small sentences and those who are non-violent. This leaves the prisons with only the felony offenders. The population of the inmates convicted of drug related offenses could be reduced by decriminalizing drugs. This would reduce the high percentage of offenders who are imprisoned due top drug related offenses. Another effective approach is offering the inmates employment skills which assures them of better living standards after prison and thus giving them a chance to shun away from crime.
Such approaches if effectively adopted would reduce the prison population thus reducing overcrowding and cost of maintaining large magnitudes of offenders in prison. With this kind of reformations, only the violent and the felony offenders stay in prison while the non-violent misdemeanors do their time outside of prison which should reduce overcrowding problem drastically. On the other hand, with more focus on job skills and rehabilitation it may have the same effect on recidivism rate. The best thing out of the situation is that in the end it’s cheaper than building new prisons. Works cited Charles H. Logan.
Private prisons in the United States. Oxford University Press US, 1990, p102-205. Clements, C. Offender classification and the problems of prison overcrowding. Crime and Delinquency, 1999, p61-89. Cox. V and McCain, G. Prison crowding research: The relevance of prison housing standards and a general approach regarding crowding phenomena. American Psychologist, 2004, p108-226. Dana Joel. A Guide to Prison Privatization. May 24, 1988. Retrieved from. Http://www. heritage. org/Research/Crime/BG650. cfm Dean J. Champion. Sentencing of offenders and state of prisons in the U. S Judicial system. ABC-CLIO publishers, 2007, p27-39