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Being incarcerated is a broad definition of incarceration. One method of punishing and rehabilitating those who have committed felonies and other offenses in the United States is through incarceration. Guerino, Harrison, and Sabol (2011) claim that America has the greatest jail population and the second-highest rate of incarceration per capita, behind Seychelles (which had a prison population totaling to 735 out of a population of 92,000 in the year 2004).

Men make up 90% of the inmate population, and they are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than women. These men are often young, between the ages of 20 and 30. These prisoners too are usually less educated, the average inmate having a 10th-grade education. Furthermore, blacks and Latinos are at high risk of being imprisoned compared to whites. In 2010, Latinos were imprisoned at 1,258 per 100,000, blacks 3,074 per 100,000 residents, and whites 559 per 100,000 residents. However, since 2007 the rate of incarceration in America has slightly made a 0.3 percent decline in the prison population in 2010 for the first time since 1972 (Guerino et al. 2011)

Why Incarceration is growing

The rise in crime rates. Focusing on the community, this is because crime roots in the underfunded neighborhood and schools where jobs dried a long time ago. The class of cell pipeline usually traps many boys and girls who instead ought to be learning in supportive surroundings instead of being sent to juvenile detention. In such cases, where there is no job training, few resources for schools, no economic growth, cycles of poverty and imprisonment go on unabated(Tonry 1999).

In courtrooms, more often Americans are imprisoned with sentences that are inappropriate with their actions. Most of these young people who are yearning for mentorship, love, support are instead tread unmercifully as adults. For example, victims of commercial sexual exploitation or addiction are often incarcerated instead of being given treatment. In most cases, poor Americans spend weeks and months in cells merely because they are unable to pay the fine or bond (Tonry 1999). Also, damaging mandatory sentences for an undue amount of time that is disproportionate to the crime endangers their communities. They tear apart families.

Why incarceration is vital to solve

High incarceration rates levy significant budgetary as well as human costs. Individuals with criminal backgrounds in the United States face challenges in finding decent and stable jobs because usually, no one wants to trust an ex-convict. Furthermore, time spent behind bars would have instead been utilized in developing knowledge and skills necessary in today’s labor market. It is therefore imperative to solve the issue of incarceration because such people face challenges finding jobs thus resorting to crime again and the cycle continues.

Incarceration increases the level of poverty. This is true for former inmates and also other family members including children. Most of these prisoners are usually parents and partners. Therefore, their incarceration usually robs the family of a potential wage earner exposing them to poverty. These families in return resort to crimes like theft, robbery for survival.

Possible solutions to the high incarceration rates

Establishing prison education programs and ensuring inmate participation. A recent release by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy suggested that theses inmate education programs can reduce recidivism, which is the rate at which ex-convicts will repeat the same convicts by 5 to 20 percent. Educational programming will empower inmates with marketable skills which they can take to the job market upon release, thus help in saving taxpayers money in the long run(Binswanger et al.2007).

By reclassifying certain low-level crimes and also decriminalizing particular activities. The increased and prolonged prison sentences to punish felonies such as possession of drugs like marijuana, cocaine has led to the high incarceration rates. Lawmakers, therefore, should eliminate or reduce the penalties for such offenses and also ensure that in so doing, public safety is not affected (Binswanger et al.2007).

Reduce the length of prison terms. Policymakers should revisit strict sentencing policies like ‟truth –in– sentencing.” Lawmakers should allow inmates reduce their sentences through earned strategies. States also should put up programs that enable inmates to meet specific requirements to obtain positive decisions in parole hearings, more so in states where parole grants rates are low. (Binswanger et al.2007).


Binswanger, I. A., Stern, M. F., Deyo, R. A., Heagerty, P. J., Cheadle, A., Elmore, J. G., & Koepsell, T. D. (2007). Release from prison—a high risk of death for former inmates. N Engl J Med, 2007(356), 157-165.

Guerino, P., Harrison, P. M., & Sabol, W. J. (2011). Prisoners in 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC.

Tonry, M. (1999). Why are US incarceration rates so high?. NCCD news, 45(4), 419-437.

March 10, 2023


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