Overcrowding And Mass Incarceration In Prisons In The United States

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Overcrowding and mass incarceration have been problems in the United States prisons for decades. Overcrowding can be traced back to the late 1970 's with an inmate population increase of 750% from the 70 's to present(Rogan). This increasing number of prisoners has had major negative effects, not only on the inmates themselves, but also on the surrounding communities that these inmates have been taken from and will eventually be released back into. The more mass incarceration that goes on the more these prisons, communities, and future generations will continue to decrease. The well being of the prison inmates was put in such jeopardy, because of overcrowding, that in 2011 the Supreme Court decided with a 5:4 vote that California would have …show more content…
There are many factors that have lead to the drastic boost in incarcerations, such as the nation-wide war on drugs and the enactment of minimum mandatory sentences. The war on drugs has a direct positive correlation to the overcrowding in prisons. In 1976, the media and policy makers declared this war on drugs by passing legislation that states drug offense charges, even first time non violent offenders, have to serve time in jail (Higgs). This mandatory sentencing law snowballed the idea across society that the only way to win this "war on drugs" is to incarcerate every single person who has been found with drugs and this will inevitably end all drug usage. But what many are not discussing is how this seemingly productive legislation has caused a ripple effect throughout prisons and communities in our nation. Policy makers have not realized it, but this destructive law focuses the attention more on making the problem disappear within the walls of penitentiaries, instead of combating the issues with productive means that can take place outside of prisons, while decreasing our overall prison …show more content…
In 2011, the Supreme Court issued a judgment stating that California had to decrease its prison population by 2013. This put the pressure on the state to come up with an idea and fast. What they proposed was an act called the Realignment Act. The main characteristic of this new legislation is the majority of the authority to make sentencing and arresting decisions goes back to the county jails instead of the state prisons (Stelloh). In this case, the counties are now able to decide whether they would like to enforce community resources as a punishment or rehabilitation instead of sending the convict straight to a state prison.
On the other hand, many people believe that the Realignment Act is just a shell game. That it 's a way for the state to keep the same number of people imprisoned without them actually being at a state prison. Instead of being at a highly expensive penitentiary, the inmates are now at a county jail. What these opposers of prison reform fail to acknowledge is the fact that

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