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The Underground Economy Essay

1384 words - 6 pages

Prison expansion in the United States continues as new prisons today, and in the past have been constructed to house the increasing population it incarcerates. Although many explanations exist, it was the changes in criminal justice policy that fueled the massive population increase and system expansion by increasing the penalty of drug, violent, and repeat offenders. (Western, 2002) It has been said that this was the result of political and mainstream fear derived from the crack epidemic which had been sweeping the nation's urban black communities. The "Three strikes" laws, which mandated an automatic life sentence for a third felony conviction, and "truth-in-sentencing" laws, which required violent criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentences, combined with America's "War on Drugs" to fuel a prison population increase of unprecedented proportions. (Marvell & Moody, 2001) Ironically, the policy changes unfairly targeted those outside of the mainstream (mainly blacks) with unreasonable punishments, with an additional "sweeping" taking place of African-Americans into the penal system. Without the incarceration of certain large groups of low-level drug offenders, much of the prison expansion would have been unnecessary. (Blumstien, 1988) During a span of 13 years from 1985 to 1998, the population of the U.S. penal system grew by 7.3%. (Western, 2002) Its growth enabled incarceration to become a common life for minority men. On an average day in 1996, more African-American individuals between the ages of 20 and 35 who had never completed high school were in prison than working. (Western, 2002) President George W. Bush, past Presidents, and some leading criminal justice experts continue to deem and promote the incarceration approach as a successful and valid response to crime. They must then be unaware or unconcerned with the U.S. being the world's biggest per capita jailer of its own population. Or is it that they do not see the vast amount of minorities in the penal system as being "of its own population"? The U.S. also has the prestige of having the highest rate of incarceration and one of the highest rates of violent crime. (Pettit & Western, 2004) From 1988 to 1993, the imprisonment rate increased from 244 to 351 with an increase of 44%. This greatly surpassed the increase in crime for that period, with a jump in the Index crime rate of only 2%. (Schneider, 1998) Subsequently, the uncorrelated change nullifies our President's reasoning and the argument that high rates of incarceration produce low crime rates.The privatization of our nation's penal system has also resulted in the increase of incarceration, for it is in the best interest of prison profit seeking companies to have their facilities filled to capacity. In many cases, privatization comes about after there is a problem in maintaining the financing of the public venture. Such is the case with the issue of social security in the United States. Although efficient funding is...

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