Overcrowding of Prisons Essay

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Prison overcrowding has been a major problem for decision-makers and policy makers associated with law enforcement and criminal justice systems ever since the development of modernized prisons during the 19th century. Gabriel & Jacobs (1985). The overcrowding problem might not be brought up until a rare occurrence occurs and the legal officials start to investigate the issues. Additionally, the strategies and policies created to address jail overcrowding may face financial, social, and legal repercussions. Campers (2012). Therefore, it is urgent to identify possible causes of prison overcrowding and determine how to manage them through effective policy development. The current research work attempts to examine the perceptions of mainly the criminal justice professionals to track the reasons behind prison overcrowding and how this issue might potentially be resolved.

1.2. Significance of the Issue

Prison overcrowding or congestion has obviously turned into a noteworthy issue in the USA with regards to the economic and administrative situations. One can currently find out more than 66% of a million people in this nation in prisons or in jails, and it is being expected that there will be a large portion of a million in prisons alone (Portland State University, 2017). All thing considered, the imprisoned individuals are bound to experience confinement in very small spaces. While the conditions of prisons have enhanced impressively from various perspectives, the current restorative framework is as yet attempting to manage similar issues that the USA has encountered before Campers (2012). The critical aspect of prison overcrowding has kept on harming USA remedial services as a result of expanding prisoner populace and the interest in lower adjustments expenses (Warmsley, 2005). The above-mentioned components have brought about a developing lack of living area for detainees. Numerous remedial facilities are working in risky situations, which incorporate working above the most extreme limit. Overcrowding in penitentiaries and detainee to prisoner savagery has all the earmarks of being firmly related and additionally terrible living situations, which add to large portions of the issues in jails, which appear to be illegal and not following the constitution (Levitt, 1996). Savagery and violent actions including rape, weakness, bad health conditions and the widespread of maladies among detainees, and a number of prisoners in a cell which has the capacity to hold fewer individuals, with every last bit of space possessed by a bunk or a man can be considered as some of the illegal issues being experienced in the prisons (Davey, 1998). Congestion or overcrowding has been identified as a difficult issue, yet one can find out a number of causes behind prison overcrowding, and in addition, the impacts of it (Boritch, 2005). One can also identify various techniques which the authorities are attempting to use keeping in mind the end goal to control such quandary. Regardless of whether some need to trust it or not, prison overcrowding should be considered as a significant issue which the people of USA as a whole need to take a gander at on the grounds that it is the people's cash which is being utilized to bolster a falling flat jail framework (Lynch, 2007).

2.0. Literature Review

2.1. Causes of Prison Overcrowding

The superseding reason for jail congestion is genuinely self-evident: the numbers of detainees surpasses the spatially and socially identified limit of restorative organizations and jail frameworks to house the prisoners (Moore, & Elkavich, 2008). Then again, the hidden reason for this excess of prisoners is less clear. A few arrangements of components seem to have added to the development of prison and jail popula­tions in the USA as well as several different nations in the world (Moore, & Elkavich, 2008). A critical variable, in any event in the USA, is a general populace with strict correctional mindset. Many individuals in the USA need to view the individuals who damage society's tenets rebuffed for the activities. Government officials much of the time conform to general society's interest for more prominent discipline since they would prefer not to seem powerless on wrongdoing (Ruderman, Wilson, & Reid, 2015). As needs are, they present enactment and regulation which accommodates required, determinate, and long-term sentences; diminishes great behavior timeframe credit; and confines or wipes out early-discharge projects, for example, parole (Drago, Galbiati, & Vertova, 2011).

Notwithstanding the administrative reaction of lawmakers and policymakers to a population with a strict reformatory mindset, there are a few different reasons which might add to jail overcrowding (Portland State University, 2017). Drug abuse is instrumental in a large portion of the new admissions to correctional facilities and jails. This is the main source of parole and restrictive discharge infringement. In that capacity, drug abuse is both specifically and in a roundabout way (stricter sentences for drug abuse offense) connected to jail over­crowding (Ruderman, Wilson, & Reid, 2015). Shifts in demography add to jail stuffing. It has been exemplified through the wrongdoing blast during the late 1960s when the youngsters of post-war USA were mainly involved in wrongdoing (Davey, 1998). After some time, the aspect of age have turned out to be imperative; some of the specialized prisons for age-specific criminals have even been shut. It has placed an expanded weight on the current administrative services and adds to the developing congestion issue. Furthermore, in many cases, it has been observed that the government and remedial authorities have failed to properly enact the desired regulations and as a result, the situation has become worse (Drago, Galbiati, & Vertova, 2011).

2.2. Impacts of Prison Overcrowding

One of the most usual consequences or outcomes of prison congestion is hostility or aggressive behavior (Moore, & Elkavich, 2008). A number of research works conducted on over­crowding in various rodent species showed that the rodent creatures brought up in a swarmed situation proved to be comparatively more vicious, pushed, and unhealthy than those creatures who were brought up in a domain which was not crowded Campers (2012). Various research works led on prison-packing, notwithstanding, have generated blended outcomes (Ruderman, Wilson, & Reid, 2015). Regarding a few reviews, the researchers have found prison overcrowding to relate to a specific expansion with regards to upcoming disciplinary issues, especially animosity (Boritch, 2005). Regarding different reviews, the researchers have not related prison overcrowding with forceful and non-aggressive disciplinary issues (Warmsley, 2005). However, in several other reviews, this issue is associated with a discernible decrease in upcoming forceful and non-aggressive disciplinary issues (Portland State University, 2017). One can find out a few conceivable clarifications for such uncertain and here and there odd discoveries. In the first place, in light of the fact that more youthful people frequently experience difficulty abstaining from getting disciplinary reports in jail, it is conceivable that adjustments in the age structure of the jail or the act of lodging more established and more youthful detainees in particular offices could impact the aftereffects of congestion research (Drago, Galbiati, & Vertova, 2011). Secondly, a large portion of these reviews ignore the positive or ameliorative impacts that may diminish the negative effect of jail congestion Campers (2012). At the point when analysts look at the impact of instructive, word related, and mental programming on jail based hostility, they much of the time find that these positive interests can have a quieting impact (Ruderman, Wilson, & Reid, 2015). Both these variables: age and positively oriented impacts recommend that a framework approach ought to direct studies conducted on prison overcrowding.

Animosity and disciplinary issues might be the important result measures utilized as a part of research on jail overcrowding, yet they are by all account not the only conceivable con­sequences of congestion (Portland State University, 2017). Extra results of jail congestion incorporate lessened entertainment time for detainees, diminished access to wellbeing and men­tal social insurance, poor staff spirit, expanded office upkeep costs, reduced organization security, and less open doors for prisoners to learn exchanges and go to class (Portland State University, 2017). These outcomes, and in addition the pos­sibility of an ascent in future hostility, outline the significance of finding an answer for the issue of congestion.

3.0. Professional's Perception

In order to find out what the professionals think about the potential reasons behind prison overcrowding, their impacts, current reformative programs, and possible solutions, an interview session was conducted with Mr. Jim Sampson who is in charge of the internship program at Shelton. Six open-ended questions were formulated for this interview. The interview was held at a convenient time specified by the interviewee. The first question asked the interviewee to clarify the significant reasons behind prison overcrowding according to his perceptions. First of all, the interviewee stated that the issue of prison overcrowding is historically significant and he also clarified that this has now emerged as one of the most complicated problems for administrative authorities. According to the interviewee, the capacity of the majority of the prisons regarding accommodating the prisoners can be considered as considerably moderate when contrasted with desirable and standard capacities. Furthermore, it was also clarified by the interviewee that in the current scenario, one can easily observe that the legal authorities tend to provide a greater amount of prison sentences to the criminals and wrongdoers as compared to the earlier days. As the capacity of the prisons is limited, higher rates of prison sentences inevitably lead to prison overcrowding. The interviewee has also perceived that the general populations' demand for long prison sentences forces the legal authorities to overcrowd the prisons. The general population wants to see the criminals behind the bars and as a result, they pressurize the legal authorities to provide long prison sentences to the criminals most of the time. In order to satisfy the demand of the general population and to establish a clear political image, the authorities need to follow such urge. As a result, the prisons become easily overcrowded. Furthermore, the interviewee has also stated that recidivism plays a huge part in prison overcrowding. According to the interviewee, "As there might be a tendency among the criminals to break rules and law again and again, the courts and policy makers may tend to put them in prisons in order to safeguard the society. As the rate of recidivism is getting increasingly high, this has become a significant reason behind prison overcrowding." The interviewee has further perceived that the continuous dynamic changes in the legal implications have led to the implementation of such regulations and law that demand prison sentencing for diverse sorts of crimes. As a result, the prisons are filled with such huge numbers of criminals and offenders that are beyond their capacity. However, the interviewee has straightforwardly denied the involvement of corruption and weak economic situations in increasing the issues associated with prison overcrowding. The interviewee has gone on to answer that one can find out diverse sorts of reasons leading to prison overcrowding in various countries and states. This is mainly due to the setting of the places, the pattern of administration, diverse implications of the law, and different approach to sentencing. As a result, the reasons of prison overcrowding may differ from one part of the world to another. According to the interviewee, prison overcrowding may lead to a number of negative consequences such as the lack of desirable space for accommodation of the prisoners, increase in misconduct and violent behavior (specifically toward inmates) among the prisoners, continuous downfall in the prisoners' health condition, and a vulnerable psychological state of the prisoners. As per the interviewee, these impacts immensely influence the governmental administrations as well as the entire society. The interviewee states, " As the government needs to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its people (including the convicts), prison overcrowding puts the question on their efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, as the convicted individuals are also a part of the society, the suffering experienced by them inevitably has a negative effect on the entire society." Moreover, the interviewee has pointed out a seriously concerning aspect stating that due to the pressure of overcrowded prisons, the legal authorities sometimes tend to grant parole even to some serious criminals. This is not at desirable either from the legal or social perspective. The interviewee has perceived that the currently implemented governmental policies are not efficient enough to properly deal with this critical issue. According to him, more appropriately planned, designed, and structured policies should be implemented in order to enhance the capacity of the prisons, extend the service facilities, and take a humanitarian approach to deal with the accused individuals.

4.0. Survey Results

A well-constructed survey was also conducted in order to collect responses from different individuals on some related topics and themes. The survey questionnaires were distributed among 5 individuals who were requested to return the forms after filling them up. The questionnaire consisted of 10 questions Each of these questions had five optional answers (formulated in line with a 5-point Likert-scale options but was not completely adhered to it). The survey results clarified that whereas 3 participants perceive the issue of prison overcrowding as significant, 2 of them remained neutral and did not provide any specific answer. Regarding the current capacity of most of the prisons, 2 respondents answered that their capacity is somewhat high while the remaining 3 stayed neutral. Regarding the rate of excessive prison sentences as a reason of prison overcrowding, the question received mixed responses. While 2 individuals termed it as a somewhat significant reason, other 2 persons termed it as somewhat insignificant, and the remaining individual stayed neutral. Regarding the involvement of corruption as a reason of prison overcrowding, 3 individuals stated that it was a somewhat significant reason while the other 3 remained neutral. Furthermore, with regards to the role played by a weak economic scenario in determining prison overcrowding, 2 individuals stated that it plays an insignificant role and other 2 remained neutral while only one person perceived this reason as extremely significant. Next, 3 persons stated that prison management/governance is extremely significant in determining prison overcrowding. However, the rest of the two remained neutral. Perhaps the most positive responses were received for the general populations' demand for long prison sentences as a reason to force the legal authorities to overcrowd the prisons. In this context, 3 individuals that such demands probably forces the legal authorities while the other 2 were absolutely obvious about its influence. It was thereafter noticed that the no.4 participant skipped the questions numbered 8 and 9. After that, one individual stated that the recidivism rate plays an extremely significant role in determining prison overcrowding, one other person termed this reason as somewhat significant, while the remaining two individuals did not provide any specific answer and chose to remain neutral. Furthermore, 2 individuals perceived that the dynamic changes in legal implications are probably leading to prison overcrowding. But the other two remained neutral. Lastly, as per the responses provided by the respondents, 2 individuals perceived that the current governmental policies regarding managing prison overcrowding are somewhat appropriate. On the other hand, one person perceived that these strategies are somewhat poor. The rest of the two persons remained neutral. However, it was surprising to find out that almost 40% of the responses were marked as neutral. This is either because the respondents did not have proper knowledge about the inquired aspects or they were hesitating to provide clear answers due to some unknown reasons.

5.0. Recommendations

The issue of prison overcrowding is extremely critical and it has been confirmed by the current study. In order to overcome the difficulties, the authorities need to implement a number of steps. Firstly, they need to form committees or organizational bodies who will inspect the overall condition of the prisons across the states on a quarterly or half-yearly basis. Secondly, the prison authorities and legal administrators need to take immediate steps in order to extend the capacity of the prisons. Thirdly, the general public should be made aware of this fact. Fourthly, the law implementers need to consider revising the legal implications in such a manner so that the convicts are punished but the problem of prison overcrowding is avoided. Fifthly, the prison authorities might begin correctional programs in order to not only make sure that the prisoners stay mentally healthy but also to make sure that they give up the tendency to commit an offense again. Sixthly, the authorities might take steps to monitor and supervise the individuals after getting free so that the rate of recidivism can be restricted. Finally, the governmental authorities need to formulate and design the legal regulations and policies according to the needs of time and keeping in mind the critical issue of prison overcrowding so that the stricter approach to sending every convict to jail does not worsen the situation.

6.0. Conclusions

This study has attempted to investigate and find out the potential reasons behind prison overcrowding and the probable solutions to this issue by analyzing the data gathered from the inerview and survey responses, it can be stated that the capacity of the majority of the prisons regarding accommodating the prisoners, the rate of excessive prison sentences, poor management/governance, the general populations' demand for long prison sentences, the increasing recidivism rate, and the dynamic changes in legal implications are the most potential reasons behind prison overcrowding. However, corruption and economic scenario might not prove to be significant determinants of prison overcrowding. As per the results, the prison overcrowding has numerous negatively oriented physical and psychological impacts on the prisoners, administrative procedures, and the entire society on a wholesome level. The current government policies might prove to be efficient in certain settings but they are not wholesomely effective. Therefore, the authorities need to assess the issue from a more critical point of view and try to find out proper solutions to eradicate this problem by taking diverse kind of steps and timely actions.


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Levitt, S. (1996). The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation. The Quarterly Journal Of Economics, 111(2), 319-351.

Lynch, M. (2007). Big prisons, big dreams. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Moore, L., & Elkavich, A. (2008). Who’s Using and Who’s Doing Time: Incarceration, the War on Drugs, and Public Health. American Journal Of Public Health, 98(5), 782-786.

Portland State University. (2017). Prison Overcrowding is a Growing Concern in the U.S. | Portland State Online. Online.ccj.pdx.edu. Retrieved 1 June 2017, from http://online.ccj.pdx.edu/news-resources/articles/prison-overcrowding-is-a-growing- concern-in-the-u-s.html

Ruderman, M., Wilson, D., & Reid, S. (2015). Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis. PLOS ONE, 10(10), e0141328.

Warmsley, R. (2005). Prison health care and the extent of prison overcrowding. International Journal Of Prisoner Health, 1(1), 3-12.

July 15, 2023

Crime History Education

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Prison 19Th Century Research

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