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The Flaws Of Incarceration In America

1662 words - 7 pages

The United States has a larger percent of its population incarcerated than any other country. America is responsible for a quarter of the world’s inmates, and its incarceration rate is growing exponentially. The expense generated by these overcrowded prisons cost the country a substantial amount of money every year. While people are incarcerated for a number of reasons, the country’s prisons are focused on punishment rather than reform, and the result is a misguided system that fails to rehabilitate criminals or discourage crime. The ineffectiveness of the United States’ criminal justice system is caused by mass incarceration of non-violent offenders, racial profiling, and a high rate of recidivism.
The majority of prisoners incarcerated in America are non-violent offenders. This is due mainly to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which is a method of prosecution that gives offenders a set amount of prison time for a crime they commit if it falls under one of these laws, regardless of their individual case analysis. These laws began in the 1980s, when the use of illegal drugs was hitting an all time high (Conyers 379). The United States began enacting legislature that called for minimum sentencing in an effort to combat this “war on drugs.” Many of these laws give long sentences to first time offenders (Conyers). The “three strikes” law states that people convicted of drug crimes on three separate occasions can face life in prison. These laws were passed for political gain, as the American public was swept into the belief that the laws would do nothing other than help end the rampant drug crimes in the country. The laws are still in effect today, and have not succeeded to discourage people from using drugs. Almost fifty percent of the country’s federal prisoners are in custody for drug related offences (Conyers 379). In the state of Arizona, for example, 55 percent of prisoners are non-violent offenders, and only 18 percent of its prisoners are incarcerated for crimes that caused victim injuries (Hooker, Hirsh). Arizona has strict laws that force minimum sentencing on most of its first time offenders, and all repeat offenders who have had a past felony. Because of its laws, only 5 percent of Arizona’s criminal cases receive a trial, all of the others are settled outside of court, without any information about the accused from their families or probation officers (Hooker, Hirsh). This means that most of the people being persecuted in the state are given a mandatory minimum sentence. Although a large population of the country’s prisoners has been persecuted for drug crimes, a lack of any reformative programs in many prisons has caused those who are addicted to drugs to have no chance of rehabilitation while they live out their sentences. Another anti-drug legislation that dictates mandatory sentencing for a particular type of crime levies unequal punishment for similar crimes. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed by Congress in 1986, and it...

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