Problems With Prison Overcrowding

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Americans today live in a country overflowing with more prisoners than ever, yet crime has been dropping since the late twentieth century. In fact, from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled from about 500,000 to 2.3 million people (Criminal 1). There are several factors contributing to this problem. In recent years, America has taken new approaches to crime, such as the “War On Drugs” and the “Three Strikes” law. These approaches have drastically increased the prison population, to the point that 1 in 31 adults, or 3.2% of the population, will spend some time in prison in their lifetime (ibid). There are many reasons for the amount of prisoners, but one reason in particular stands out: the strict sentences …show more content…
While the United States’ problems with prison overcrowding date back centuries, the problem has suddenly worsened. There are many reasons for this, but the most pressing reason is the war on drugs. This “war”, beginning around the 1970s, perpetuated the overcrowding crisis by drastically increasing the number of nonviolent offenders incarcerated (Schlanger 4). By inserting nonviolent prisoners in jail, the likelihood of violence and psychological problems increases. The problems with prison overcrowding were exacerbated by the war on crime, which also appeared between the 1970s and 90s. Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton all used “tough on crime” approaches in their campaigns, and at a time when crime was on the rise, citizens were attracted to these approaches. This led to increased amounts of police officers, and increased populations in jails that were already overcrowded. In fact, in a Texas prison in 1998, over 1,000 inmates were sleeping on prison floors already holding double the acceptable amount of inmates (Campers 15). The recent issue with prison overcrowding stems almost entirely from the war on drugs and war on crime.Tough on crime approaches, surfacing in the late 20th century, are one of the major causes for prison

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