Effects of overcrowding and recidivism in the United States penal system Name Professor Institution Course Date


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM Abstract The United States penal system is faced with a number of issues here and there which have deemed it ineffective. Its main purpose is to ensure that villains get to pay for their crimes through serving time in prisons. This has not been a success due to some of the setbacks that the system is facing. Two of these setbacks are overcrowding of inmates and recidivism. Overcrowding is simply the situation where there is more than required and this is what is happening in prison cells in the United States. Recidivism on the other means the situation whereby an individual adapts a negative behavior after suffering the consequences of the same behavior or after having being made exhibit or execute that behavior. These two situations have really made the penal system in the US be slow in achieving its set goals. The main focus therefore for this paper is the effect that overcrowding and recidivism have on the panel system in the US. When we speak of overcrowding of prisoners we are required to define overcrowding. In this case we define overcrowding in terms of social density and the physical density. Social density in this case is the number of people sharing or occupying a cell or the designated area in the jail. Physical density is the amount of space (square feet) for a people in a housing unit (Toch, 1999). Therefore overcrowding occurs when there is an insufficiency of space for prisoners in a housing unit. Crowding does not directly relate to the number of people per square area of space. People have different perceptions of being crowded. Others feel crowded in the presence of a few while others do not feel crowded in the presence of many. In that case, frustration seems to be the significant element when it comes to the achievement of a certain purpose because of the presence of people (Toch, 1999). Overcrowding has mainly affected the


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM larger prison institutions with the younger inmates. Overcrowding has a number of effects, I will expound on them below. The Effects of Overcrowding Prisoner misconduct A research carried out in 2003 shows that overcrowding does not directly cause misconduct of the inmates. However overcrowding has a significant impact on the management style that is directly related to the misconduct of inmates. Overcrowding causes stressful situations for the significant authority in prisons causing them to be overpowered by the prisoners (Ruback, 2002). Small orders by authority tend to be refuted by the prisoners and this behavior continues to escalate with the increase of population in the same prison. Psychological consequences In a study carried out in 2006, high population found within prison walls causes a negative psychological state of the inmates. The high population appears to be the same as to the outside world and thus the inmate does not feel the need to change their behavior but continues to behave in the same inappropriate manner. This in turn causes stressful situations for prison officials to react inappropriately on occasion. This therefore shows that overcrowding does not only affect the inmate but also the prison wardens too. Prison overcrowding and inmate violence A study carried out in Japan for quite some time on Prison Population Density found out that there is a direct correlation with Prison Violence Rates. With every increase in prison population the prison violence increases significantly too. A research carried out by the


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM Correctional Service of Canada showed that 26.4% of prison inmates share a cell. Out of the same percentage 12% of them feel threatened by their cell-mates. Chances of violence occurring within the cell increases drastically with the sharing inmates. Higher Rates of Illnesses Imprisonment is at many times seen as social or interactive for the inmates. Different people from different states come together and begin to use the same recourse. Air borne diseases are the most easily spread throughout the prison facility. Others such as sexually transmitted diseases come a close second as the muscular or more physically fit inmates may at times rape the weaker ones(Ruback, 2002). Due to lack of protection diseases such as HIV and Gonorrhea are easily spread. Wardens who also get to interact with the inmates may also easily get the diseases. Competition for Limited Resources Increase in the population of inmates causes a direct increase in the number of inmates per available resources. Therefore inmates begin to scramble for the limited resources available. There is therefore slow correction of the behaviors of the inmates and a hope for a better future for them becomes more and more vague. Due to slow correction rates it also causes the slower exit of inmates from the correctional facility (Torch 1999). Higher Suicide Rates Overcrowding of prison facilities causes a sharing of prison cells. As seen earlier, more prisoners who share prison cells feel threatened by their cell-mates. Of these who are threatened by their cell-mates, many are those who under-go harassments from their


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM cellmates. Tension builds up and causes fearful personalities that may at many times result in suicidal attempts (McCain et al., 2000). Releasing of inmates It has been a very sad outcome seeing prisons release prisoners in an attempt to create space. This is actually what is happening in some of the prisons in the US. Carrying out this activity puts innocent civilians at risk as the prisoners being released; some of them are not really reformed. They get released without having finished doing their time just because prisons are overcrowded. This in some sense promotes crime activities as some of the released inmates go back to the society and continue with their old habits. This is somewhat of a cycle in the sense that if these people get arrested again, they would be charged and taken to prison and the later get released again due to overcrowding; it is to create sufficient room for the already existing inmates (McCain et al., 2000). This is a very poor representation of the penal system in the US as it is depicted as being ineffective. It cannot achieve its goals if this is what is taking place in many prisons around the country. This is a call or rather a warning to the US government that it need to rectify this issue as soon as possible; failure to this, its penal system will never be effective even in years to come. This is a serious issue and for that reason it should be taken seriously. In light of this note, recidivism is a vice which should be alleviated from the prison setting at all costs; this is to better the penal system. Effects of Recidivism The prison is supposed to be somewhat of a rehabilitation centre to shape individuals involved in crimes so that they refrain from committing crimes if released. This is however


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM not the case for one reason or the other but what is most certainly known to be the case is recidivism. This has greatly affected the penal system in the US by corrupting individuals who had decided to refrain from negative behavior. These individuals engage in negative behavior simply out of consequences and not that they do this out of their own accord or rather will (Torch 1999). It so happens that they forced to do so by circumstances; sometimes they get coerced into exhibiting negative behavior while at times consequences of negative behavior impacted on them affects them. They find themselves enjoying engaging in negative behavior which is contrary to earlier times whereby they would have avoided that. According to this information, prisons have thus turned out to be other places where crimes still continues regardless of it being seen as a correction centre. There have been many cases reported about inmates dying over brawls in prisons. These brawls are normally spearheaded by specific groups in a prison which usually have a leader. The work of the leader is to make sure that the group doe not get teased around by other prisoners; their work is to ensure security of all group members. Being a leader of a group and also being involved in one is one way of demanding respect from other inmates. The leaders of these groups recruit prisoners to do their work for them and mostly this is to settle quarrels with prisoners from other groups. Most of the recruits are people who may be have committed minor offences and are just serving a short term sentence therefore aiming at being on their best behavior (McCain, 2000). This is however made impossible when a group leader approaches them and demands a service which of course cannot be turned down. In the event of such innocent prisoners find themselves committing crimes in prisons which in turn add them more years in prison even life a life sentence. If it were not for being coerced


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM into engaging in negative behavior, then these prisoners would serve their sentence and go back to their loved ones at home. This is a signification of how recidivism has really affected the penal system by turning innocent individuals into being inhuman if it may be put. Conclusion The US has experienced a lot of challenges in its penal system and two of these are overcrowding and recidivism. As mentioned above, these two setbacks have greatly impacted the country’s penal system in a negative way through promotion of certain vices such as increased crimes, unhealthy living conditions in prisons among other things. It is therefore in light of these effects that the US should take immediate action to solve the said issues. The effects of overcrowding and recidivism have greatly brought the US into a very devastating condition for sure. There is a dire need for the situation to be amended as soon as possible before the situation gets worse. The US should learn from the effects of the two setbacks and in turn retaliate by resolving them and preventing such from happening in the future.


EFFECTS OF OVERCROWDING AND RECIDIVISM IN THE UNITED STATES PENIAL SYSTEM References McCain, G. C. (2000). The relationship between illness complaints and degree of crowding in a prison environment. . Environment and Behaviour, 8, 283-290. Ruback, B. (2002). Crowding in a woman’s prison. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 57-68. Toch, H. (1999). Living in prison: The ecology of survival. The Free Press.

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