Reasons why overcrowding in prisons poses a major problem
Overcrowding in prison occurs when the rate of demand for more space in the correctional facilities in an area exceeds the space that the government can supply in a particular jurisdiction (Fairweather & McConville, 2013). Overcrowding in prisons is caused when the rate at which prisoners are imprisoned or incarcerated exceeds the rate at which they die or released. A motion of whether the courts are jailing most of the prisoners instead of using other practical programs such as rehabilitation centers is still going on. Overcrowding in prisons leads to significant problems such as poor living conditions and diseases (Fairweather & McConville, 2013). Overcrowding affects the normality of a range of activities happening in the prisons. The issue of prison congestion is propagated by the failure of the police to practice fair Criminal justice. There are unequal share and distribution of resources among the inmates as a result of prison overcrowding. Such resources such as accommodation, food, space and other crucial facilities like health services are unequally shared. This is because of increased competition for the available resources.
The prisoners do not feel safe as their privacy is exposed. The living space is limited to the number of prisoners. The prisoners also do not enjoy the important recreational sports that they are supposed to participate in as they are minimal or even no enough resources (Lindegaard & Gear, 2014). Congestion in these prisons is also associated with many risk factors such as the occurrence and prevalence of diseases, increased rates of suicide and aggression (Lindegaard & Gear, 2014). Some of these prisoners even fight for food and other human needs.
The overcrowding in these prisons makes it difficult to attain the increased demand for more space. In trying to utilize the available limited space optimally, the tendency of misclassifying offenders slowly starts to build up. As this continues, a vicious cycle is created where prisoners are misclassified or put in a crowded prison. Overcrowding in prisons risks both the lives of guards and prisoners and sometimes leads to misconduct among the inmates. There is inadequate facilities, resources (such as washrooms, recreational materials, library) and inappropriate programs initiated for the offenders (Travis, 2005). In an instance where the inmates are not made to be active like working they seem to develop a disruptive character which can sometimes lead to aggression or violence.
Ways of dealing with overcrowding in the prisons
Trying to deal with the problem of overcrowding in these prisons has been a principal problem facing many prisons all over the world. The minor offenders of the law are therefore set to follow a certain code of arrangements. Such arrangements include the complete separation of the lesser and main law offenders (Travis, 2005). This is as a result of the major difference existing between the children and adults. Children vary from adults concerning their thinking, psychological needs, the rate of physical and emotional development and the need for education.
Separation of the adults and minors help prevent the occurrence of many vices such as sexual abuse while at the same time it aids in castigating the level of overpopulation. The correctional and rehabilitation departments have focused their light in the general reduction of inmate congestion and overcrowding. By ensuring that there is the availability of employment opportunities in the country, the government helps in minimizing the rates of occurrence of crimes and other vices against humanity. This helps to improve social security and also reduces the number of people imprisoned as a result of crimes (Unit, 2015).
By changing the judicial process as a whole while at the reducing the time of arrest and the time of release will also aid in reducing the rates of overcrowding in the prisons. Reviewing the judicial and justice process helps in reducing the processes taken while punishing a law offender by making sure that there is the reduction of the time intervals required to solve cases. The prisoners need parole system which will help them behave accordingly bearing in mind the consequences of their illegal actions. The parole programs if adhered to accordingly, it will facilitate the early release of prisoners as a scented by some powerful leaders such as the President.
History of prison overcrowding
A prison system was first used as a temporary cell for those who would break the law. People who were imprisoned included those who committed federal crimes against the government and its people, people who owed others huge sums of money, political prisoners, prisoners of war (Reiman & Leighton, 2015). The prisoners of war were subjected to long-term imprisonment. Those prisoners who could wait for their trials after the short period of imprisonment were labeled as standard criminals. The prisoners were to be free when their time of trial arrived. Before the introduction of the prison systems, people who committed crimes against humanity or the government were subjected to torture and while some were executed. Over the course of time, the rates of crimes increased gradually while the death penalty was evaded. This led to an increased inmate population in those cells. There was the general increase in the living standards of the general population due to improved living standards (Gordon & Weldon, 2003). As the population increased gradually over a short period, many people became unemployed which also led an increase in the crime rates. Many youths were found idling around without any specific jobs to attend to. At this time the available prisons were also limited compared to the number of people being arrested.
Resolving the problem of overcrowding includes instituting various measures. These are; improving the design of the correctional facilities, by reducing the number of the imprisoned law offenders, implementing fair crime prevention and social policies thus the crime and criminal justice policies should be extremely comprehensive and address all relevant aspects rather than addressing only the factors related to criminal justice, enacting the comprehensive strategies for reforms in political and criminal justice by reducing prison overcrowding by creating political will exists, the responses based on policies should be based on the country's' individual needs. Thus they should reflect the realities and real circumstances affecting the society to be implemented in a while at the same time drawing from experiences from other countries, by gaining support from the public.
Limitation of the pre-trial means of detention whereby most of the prisoners are waiting for trials and have not yet been convicted will aid in resolving this problem (Wacquant, 2009). Some minor offenses such as offenses of lower risks do not need to be convicted. Instead, severe fines should be put in place of the jail term. This will instill fear among the offenders instead of arresting and jailing them.
Some penalties which are not associated with imprisonment should be set for those offenders with minor technical probations, for example, missing a court trial. The foreign inmates should be sent back to their home countries in a bid to reduce prisoners congestion.
There are other best options of imprisonment compared to prisons such as the use of global positioning system technology in monitoring out-of prison inmates. Persons who have committed non-violent crimes should be under-house arrest as it gives them time to work from home while still they are tracked through the GPS. In scenarios where offenders have reformed, there should be in place policies which reduce their sentenced period. In some states, offenders are required to serve at least eighty fiver percentage of their charged sentence. There should be alternative means of ensuring that overcrowding in prisons is minimized to lowest levels possible like allowing the old to cut short their stay in prison.
Lastly, increasing the prison capacity tends to be more effective than other solutions as it creates more available space for the inmates to live in. Space used for other purposes that are not in use can be converted into living space. Other ways of dealing with this problem are to offer alternative forms of imprisonment which include probation, restitution, community service, house arrest and diversion programs (Cole, 2011). The courts make good use of other rehabilitation centers. The use of GPS technology in monitoring the prisoners by keeping them within a certain designated area. This type of technology creates a geo-fence which monitors the inmates. The courts should, in turn, shorten the sentences as was suggested by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Cole, D. (2011). Turning the corner on mass incarceration. Ohio St. J. Crim. L., 9, 27.
Fairweather, L., & McConville, S. (2013). Prison architecture. Routledge.
Gordon, H. R., & Weldon, B. (2003). The impact of career and technical education programs on adult offenders: Learning behind bars. Journal of Correctional Education, 54(4), 200-209.
Lindegaard, M. R., & Gear, S. (2014). Violence makes safe in South African prisons: Prison gangs, violent acts, and victimization among inmates. Focaal, 2014(68), 35.
Reiman, J., & Leighton, P. (2015). The rich get richer and the poor get prison: Ideology, class, and criminal justice. Routledge.
Travis, J. (2005). But they all come back: Facing the challenges of prisoner reentry. The Urban Insitute.
Unit, S. E. (2015). Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners.
Wacquant, L. (2009). Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Duke University Press.
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