The Problems Afflicting American Prisons

America’s prisons are grappling with a bevy of severe problems.

There are too many inmates, not enough guards, and the recidivism rate is disturbingly high. Criminal justice reform is one of the rare bipartisan issues that everyone agrees on. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the police are arresting too many people or if you think that aren’t enough people behind bars. We can all recognize that the current system isn’t working.

Prison Jail Reform CrimeAccording to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 25% of the world’s prisoners are incarcerated in American prisons. It’s a booming population. The number of U.S. prisoners has exploded in the last fifty years. The growth was particularly rapid between 1970-1990.

Research shows that 1/3 of African- American boys born in the U.S. will be imprisoned at some point in his life. For Latino boys, the number is 1/6. Prisons are constantly being replenished by new inmates. Systematic or institutional racism are often named as causes for the disturbing statistics. Only 1 in 17 white boys will see the inside of a jail cell in his lifetime.

The problems infecting the American prison system are caused by more than just its bloated size. Abuse often runs rampant in prisons. Guards are accused of smuggling drugs or failing to protect inmates during a fight, inmates are released onto the streets in a meaner, more desperate condition than when they were arrested.

Too Many Prisoners

American prisons are too full. A lot of low-income people become trapped in the legal system because they never try to mount a proper defense. Relying on a court-appointed attorney to keep you out of jail is a losing strategy. Most public defenders don’t have time to delve into their client’s cases.

A skilled lawyer, on the other hand, might be able to get the charges dropped.

“Criminal charges, even seemingly minor ones have the potential to affect the rest of your life if you are convicted,” notes Fort Walton Beach criminal defense attorneys, Flaherty Defense Firm.

“Fortunately, however, the rest of your life need not be determined by the criminal charges you are facing. With an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense team at your side, you have a chance to resolve this difficult, uncertain time in your favor.”

Not Enough Guards

State prisons across the country are overcrowded and underfunded. Being a prison guard is becoming less appealing. Prisons are struggling to hold onto their staff. Some facilities are so desperate that they’re turning to civilian workers to fill gaps in their schedules.

In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons used turned hundreds of every day, untrained people into prison guards. Secretaries, nurses, cooks, etc., were all given guard duty.

There has been a rash of prison riots on the news in the past year. One of the reasons inmates grow out of control is because they’re not being properly guarded.

Lack of Rehabilitation

Prison shouldn’t be fun. Inmates are incarcerated because they’ve violated the law and are being punished. A lot of people, understandably, have a problem with prisoners receiving “perks.”

However, most inmates are going to be released at some point. They’re going to be your neighbor, your taxi driver, the person who you see at the coffee shop every day. If you’re going to live next to someone, wouldn’t you prefer it if they didn’t resort to committing crimes?

Being incarcerated isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop people from falling back into old habits. Research conducted in 2014 found that over 50% of prisoners released in 2015 were arrested again within a year of earning their freedom. The number was even bleaker at the end of three years. By then, over two-thirds of the prisoners had been arrested.

Prison Reform Ideas

American politicians have been wrestling with this question for a long time. What should we do to fix our prison system? There are a lot of smart ideas floating around but few have them have been implemented.

Activism efforts center around improving prison conditions and keeping people out of the system to begin with.

Common ideas to reduce the number of people in jail include ways to create more options for judges. Mandatory sentencing laws have doomed thousands of non-violent offenders to lengthy prison terms. Less severity could change a lot of lives.

Community programs to help people with substance abuse problems are also rising in popularity. If someone can wean themselves from a drug habit without going to jail, it’s a victory.

The American prison system needs to be completely revamped. Too many people are being locked up.