The United States Prison System
A Glimpse Behind the Bars
Currently there are 2.2 million Americans behind bars.
They cost the country $60 billion a year.
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.
Discrimination based on race clearly exists within the prison system.
1. 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 ...view middle of the document...
2. 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.
Prisons are expensive to operate.
1. “Prisons 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.” To view the article by Robert A. Fangmeier entitled Myths and Realities About Prisons and Jails, that contains this information, click here.
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.
1. “Contrary 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.” To read the report by Daniel Maccallair entitled America’s One-Million Nonviolent Prisoners, where...