crime control and mass incarceration

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In the field of criminal justice, incarceration refers to the practice of locking up people in jails or prisons in order to rectify behavior and reduce crime. (Skarbek, 2014). According to the American constitution, legislators at all levels—federal, state, and local—have the authority to hold suspected criminals before trials in order to further their investigations. However, the American legal system allows for the detention of those who have been proven guilty of various crimes. Whether a person is imprisoned before or after the hearing, they are still considered to be inmates. (, 2017). The US legal system houses suspects of all ages in prison. However, the rate of incarceration has been increasing in the US. American federal and state prisons are filled with offenders serving different terms. Despite the mass incarceration, the rate of crime has not declined to expected level (, 2017). This raises the question if mass incarceration is effective as a correctional measure. This research seeks to analyze the effectiveness of mass incarceration as a crime correctional measure and possible suitable alternatives that can be used to enhance crime control in the society more effectively rather than detaining everybody who commits any crime.

The Issue

Research has indicated that the US has the highest rate of mass incarceration in the world. However, this has not helped in reducing the crime rate in the US especially in Maryland (, 2017). The united state federal and state justice systems make a mathematical error by assuming that more people in prisons results in less crime and more crime in the society equals more people in the prison cells. These assumptions are wrong since they have not proven effective in controlling crime in the state of Maryland and even the United States as a whole. That is, mass incarceration does not always lead to a decline in the crime rate. Reducing crime is the end goal of the criminal justice system in the US and Maryland. As such, high incarceration is a poor investment decision in this case.

Research Evidence

For instances, incarceration of juveniles has been proven to have negative effects that are likely to make them repeat offenders when they are adults. Detention is likely to deny them important human social and capital development that is much needed for development at this age. Juveniles are incarcerated for various reasons such as non-violent crimes, property offenses among other. Most of them are detained in public facilities. In 2011, about 22, 962 juveniles were incarcerated for various reasons in various federal and state prisons (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013)

According to research by Skarbek (2014), Federal and state government spends millions of money to sustain close to two million people that are held in their prisons countrywide. It has been indicated that the main reasons for violent crimes and robbery in the United States is poverty among certain groups of people in the states. Research indicates that most people who are incarcerated due to violent crimes and robbery are African Americans who are low-income earners (Skarbek, 2014). As such, the resources that are used in the prison system by the states and the federal government should be redirected to creating economic opportunities for youths. For instance, the 2010 government prison expenditure revealed that the US spends $80 billion in all the federal, state and local prisons. This is an obvious strain on a budget of the federal and county expenditure (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). As such, it leads to question whether taxpayers’ money is best spent on non-violent criminals who can be corrected using other suitable measures. Nonetheless, the families of those who are incarcerated are economically crippled especially if the person incarcerated was the provider of the family this is likely to compel the family members to be involved in other crimes like drug peddling to earn their living. Studies have indicated that most African American children are likely to have their parents incarcerated by age fourteen (, 2017). The parents are required to provide for child support despite being incarcerated. As such, when they are finally released from prison, they already have huge child support debt that they need to clear. These adds to pressure and frustrations that they are already undergoing making them more likely to be violent.

Mass incarceration has resulted to petty non-violent offenders and lower level offenders such as drug users being taken to prison instead of using appropriate alternatives to prevent them from using or peddling drugs. A report by bureau of justice and statistics 2013 about 40% of those who are in prison nationally should not actually be in prison (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). This has resulted in increasing in the population of the prisons that sometimes result to outbreak of diseases such as cholera. In fact, some prisoners have lost their lives due to cholera outbreaks in certain federal prisons. These are situations that can be avoided if the government can use alternative methods of crime correction in the society rather than.

Research indicates that mass incarceration has resulted to breakup of many families. Spouses who are separated may end up losing hope on one another resulting in family separations (Skarbek, 2014). When released, they become frustrated since they have lost everything and they feel that they have nothing to live for. The society does not fully accept them since they are always perceived as dangerous. The feeling of frustrations that they are subjected to is likely to make them commit more crimes and become repeat offenders. In fact, records indicated that there are more repeat offenders with the current high rate of incarceration in most states of the United States of America.

Prisons have been described as industry for career criminals. The prison system keeps people away from their families and relatives who give them reasons to be law abiding (Skarbek, 2014). It has been established that responsibilities such as being a father or a husband tame young people preventing them from expressing violent behaviors and makes them to settle down. Studies have indicated that marriage is likely to reduce reoffending by about 35%. Prisons keep people away from families and social life-limiting their chances to be responsible and even make families. Normally, prisons are located far away and making calls is very expensive(Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). As such, mass incarceration is not the entire solution for crime in Maryland as well as other states of the US.

According to Martensen (2012), prisons are breeding ground for crime, an individual may be incarcerated for a nonviolent crime but ends up making criminal connections in prison to become a more violent criminal upon his or her release. This is possible since most prisoners remain idle and do not support their families. As such, they have free time to develop more dangerous criminal skills by connecting with other criminals in prison. Prison is a collection of neophytes and experienced recidivists (Martensen, 2012). This makes it a place for criminal network. As such, incarceration may result to very dangerous individuals upon their release into the society. Alternative measures would be suitable for nonviolent offenders rather than incarcerating them which may make them corrupted with other hardcore criminals in prison.

Solutions and Recommendations

The ballooning number of inmates in the federal and state prisons and the fact that the numbers in prison do not reflect crime control in the society, should make the federal and state government to establish other measures that will control the problem of mass incarnation and that are also effective in controlling crime in the society. The following recommendations can be implemented to achieve the same.

The studies have established that almost half of people who are imprisoned in the US were guilty of non-violent crimes such drug-related offenses (Skarbek, 2014). Detaining non-violent criminals is a harsh punishment that can be avoided. The government should establish rehabilitation programs for drug users to make their lives meaningful. Rehabilitating drug users has been proven to be effective in controlling drug-related crimes than incarceration. Nonetheless, the government should conduct treatment to mental cases of addiction. These measures are more effective and less expensive compared to incarceration

The huge amount of money that the government spends in maintain the high prison population should be spent to better the living conditions of the vulnerable groups to prevent them from going out of their way to make a living. For instance, the federal and state governments should ensure adequate housing. There should be training activities to make them self-sufficient an ability to earn money without necessarily having to commit crime. The government should invest in education to empower the vulnerable groups of people (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013).

The policymakers should develop policies that are geared towards achieving community approach that promotes fairness and reduces incarcerations. The government should direct federal law enforcement agencies to give priority to community policies that reduce incarceration and increases community investment (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). This is more effective compared to mass incarceration in ensuring the safety of the community. The policymakers should include the voices of people who have been impacted negatively by the criminal justice system that encourages mass incarceration. These should include formerly incarcerated individuals and survivors of police brutality.

More law enforcers should be employed to increase the number of police on patrol. Research has indicated that the presence of police officers is likely to prevent crime from occurring. Most criminals do not think of the consequences of their actions (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). What comes to their mind during crime is the chance of being caught in the act. Increasing the number of law enforcers increases the chances of catching criminals hence reducing the crime rate in the society.


The US has the highest mass incarceration in the world. However, mass incarceration has been proven ineffective in controlling crime in the society. The main problem in the society is to deal with the causes of crime and not the crime. The most type of crime is robbery and violent crimes. Nonetheless, research has indicated that almost half of the people incarcerated in the US and committed nonviolent crimes. Despite the high population in prison, the crime rate has not declined considerably indicating that the system has failed. Prison breeds more crime as nonviolent criminals are allowed to interact with hardcore criminals who might influence them to become more dangerous criminals when they are released into the society. Creating opportunities, developing effective policies and rehabilitation and treatment can be used as alternative measures to control crime.

References (2017). How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated? | Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 4 December 2017, from

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2013). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Choice Reviews Online, 51(01), 51-0532-51-0532.

Martensen, K. (2012). The price that US minority communities pay: mass incarceration and the ideologies that fuel them. Contemporary Justice Review, 15(2), 211-222

Skarbek, D. (2014). Prisonomics: Lessons from America's Mass Incarceration. Economic Affairs, 34(3), 411-421.

July 15, 2023

Law Crime Sociology



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