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Is The American Prison System Working?

1663 words - 7 pages

With over three million citizens in American prisons it is important for the prison system to be working at the highest and most efficient standard. Many believe that because criminals are being locked behind bars the prisons are in proper order, but the truth is that the prison system in the United States is far from being “up to par.” The goals for prisons are “retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation”, but prisons in America are meeting few if any of these main standards (“Goals for Prison Confinement”). With problems in overcrowding, recidivism rates, criminals’ treatment, money spent, and contraband and crime, the American Prison System needs a serious overhaul.
One problem with the prison in America today is overcrowding. With over 750 inmates per 100,000 citizens the United States prison system is bound to have a problem finding places to keep these criminals. The overcrowding problem is partially due to the high incarceration rate but also because of policies that the prison system has put in place such as the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” and “Broken Windows.” The “Three Strikes and You’re Out” policy basically states that if a person obtains three felonies that that person will spend their life in prison, and the “Broken Windows” policy says that the criminal justice system will prosecute every crime even a crime as small as broken windows (“Prison Overcrowding: the Problem”). These policies create an excess amount of unneeded criminals behind bars that lead to problems in overcrowding. To solve the problems that they originally created, the prison system put in place California’s “ugly bed”, which is a “double or triple bunk that can be placed in gymnasiums or cafeterias to house more inmates” (Cohen). This solution creates a dangerous environment for both guards and inmates. Large amounts of criminals in one location becomes a breeding ground for in-prison crime, and it also creates an unfair ratio of hundreds of inmates to few guards which is not safe by any standard. In addition, overcrowding leads to the early release of inmates to make room for more inmates. This act is dangerous to the community by allowing criminals to walk free before they are ready and also to the criminal because they are not prepared well enough to reintegrate into normal society. By allowing these dangerous situations to persist, the American Prison System is failing on its goals of incapacitation, or locking the criminals away safely, and rehabilitation, or helping prepare criminals to become normal, law-abiding citizens again.
Another problem with today’s prison system in America is the high recidivism rate. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, recidivism is “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially criminal behavior” (“Recidivism”). In the United States the current recidivism rate is 67.5%; this fact means that out of the criminals released in one year 67.5% of those criminals are...

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