Studying the American prison system and the issues that currently exist within it is
an exhausting task. Even taking a mere glimpse at the overlaying problems will
provide an intense awakening and much material for critical thought.
On December 31st, 2005-There were an estimated 491 prisoners per 100,000
United States residents, up from 411 at the year 1995. As well, there were 3,145
black male sentenced inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States.
There were 1244 Hispanic male sentenced inmates per 1000 Hispanic males
and 471 white male inmates per 100,000 while males, at this time. To visit the
Bureau of Justice Statistics page, Prison Statistics, click here.
\u201cAccording to an October 1998 report by The Sentencing Project, a
Washington-based legal research and service organization, in a dozen states,
30 to 40 percent of the next generation of black men will permanently lose the
right to vote if current trends continue. In nine states, one in four black men
can never vote again because they were convicted of a felony. Upon release
from prison in Washington State, felons automatically lose the right to
vote\u2026This loss of voting rights nationwide not only highlights the eroding
political power base of blacks, but it also calls into question the notion of
democracy in America.\u201d To view the article, Number of Blacks in Prison Nears
In the year 2000, the Human Rights Watch found that 22 states and the
federal prison system operated at 100 percent or more of their highest
capacity. Due to this extreme overcrowding the rise in privately operated
facilities has recently spiked. Such private prisons now house 5.5 percent of all
state prisoners and 2.5 percent of all federal prisoners. This information was
gathered from the Human Rights Watch article on the general state of the
American prison system. To view this article, click here.
\u201cPrisons are a costly enterprise. Prisoner maintenance a few years ago
averaged around $7,041 a year per prisoner for adult jails and $9,439 for adult
prisons. In a few states the figure exceeded $20,000 per prisoner.
Construction costs range from $25,000 to $50,000 per bed. Nationwide this
price has meant a $5 billion construction bill for the 800 local, state and
federal institutions that in January 1977 were planning to add 200,000 prison
beds. The state lost tax revenue, and welfare costs for inmate-related families
added still another layer of expenditures that governmental agencies had to
build into their expanding criminal-justice budgets.\u201d To view the article by
The Debt Limit
Universal Health Care
The American Dream
It has been questioned whether or not the crimes many Americans have been
imprisoned for actually merit incarceration as the fairest, most economical, efficient,
and ethical punishment option.
\u201cContrary to the public perception that the incarceration of violent offenders
has driven America's prison growth, the [Justice Policy] Institute found that
77% of the growth in intake to America's state and federal prisons. between
1978 and 1996 was accounted for by nonviolent offenders. According to data
collected by the United States Justice Department, from 1978 to 1996, the
number of violent offenders entering our nation's prisons doubled (from
43,733 to 98,672 inmates); the number of nonviolent offenders tripled (from
83,721 to 261,796 inmates) and the number of drug offenders increased
seven-fold (from 14,241 to 114,071 inmates). Justice Department surveys show
that 52.7% of state prison inmates, 73.7% of jail inmates, and 87.6% of federal
inmates were imprisoned for offenses which involved neither harm, nor the
threat of harm, to a victim. Based on this data, we estimate that by the end of
1998, there were 440,088 nonviolent jail inmates, 639,280 nonviolent state
prison inmates, and 106,090 nonviolent federal prisoners locked up in
America, for a total 1,185,458 nonviolent prisoners.\u201d To read the report by
Daniel Maccallair entitled America\u2019s One-Million Nonviolent Prisoners, where
from this quote was taken, click here.
In reality, how effective is the prison system?
The definition of a correctional facility is \u201ca prison\u201d. But is this really the case; are
prisons really correctional facilities?
Upon their investigation, the Human Rights Watch found that many prison
inmates have \u201cscant opportunities for work, training, education, treatment, or
counseling\u201d because of taxpayer resistance to increasing the already
outrageous amount on money spent on the prison system. Finding themselves
in such seemingly hopeless situations, inmates with long sentences, little hope
of release, who are jammed into poorly equipped facilities\u2014therefore with
little incentive for good behavior\u2014often become violent. To read the Human
Rights Watch article on the general state of the American prison system
entitledU.S. Prisons, click here.
The Human Rights Watch also found that prisoner on prisoner sexual abuse is
currently a rising issue in the US prison system, as the number of inmates
continually increases. As the issue of rape increases, so do the numbers of
those both physically and psychologically damaged. Physical effects vary from
instance to instance and include the transmission of diseases/infections, such
as HIV (a particularly growing concern). The psychological stress that
inevitably follow sexual abuse is another area of great concern as \u201cvictims of
prison rape commonly report nightmares, deep depression, shame, loss of
self-esteem, self-hatred, and considering or attempting suicide.\u201d Because of
the damages that accompany sexual abuse anger and tendencies toward
violence often increase. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspects of the issue of
sexual abuse in prisons is that \u201cprison authorities, unsurprisingly, generally
claim that prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse is an exceptional occurrence
rather than a systemic problem\u201d. Due to this attitude, along with the issues of
funding previously discussed, victims of sexual abuse in prisons do not often
receive adequate care. To read the official Human Rights Watch reportNo
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