Prison Overcrowding Critique Essay

This paper will discuss prison overcrowding and what type of numbers have come about over the years when it comes to inmates being imprisoned. It will discuss the cost of a prisoner annually as well as the decision to add verses build when it comes to new facilities. The overcrowding in one particular prison will be touched on as well as whose responsibility it is for upkeep. It will discuss how funding plays a role in overcrowding as well as the “three strikes” rule in California and how big of an impact it has made on the prison system.Lastly, society’s choice to vote will be touched on as how large of a determining factor it is in overcrowding prisons. State and Federal Prisons housed approximately 1.3 million inmates in the year 2000, not to mention the jails had an estimate of 600,000 as well. Ten years previous the prisons housed 700,000 inmates and jails were at about 400,000. At that rate, the population of people being incarcerated almost doubled from 1. 1 million to 1. 9 million inmates. The last count in 2008 jumped again to an astonishing 2. million imprisoned within the country (Diiulio, Jr., J. , 2010, March). Factors that contribute to prison and jail overcrowding is that so many people are incarcerated each year, funding, upkeep of a facility, the three strikes rule and tax payers are unwilling to pass levees. One of the largest reasons prisons are overcrowded today is that it is reported that one out of every 99. 1 adults are currently in prison or jail. This is the largest number in nation’s history and seven times the inmate rate from 1973.Amazingly ninety-five percent of prisoners are released back into communities to continue living their lives.

They are not thrown to the wolves; they are released “with a basic education, job training and preparation, improved pro-social pattern of thinking, adequate life/social skills, and a lowered risk for substance abuse, anger and self esteem issues” (Boehm, D. P. , & Lampert, R. O. , 2008, October). If an inmate needs continued treatment once released, they are provided the assistance and resources to make the transition as successful as possible.Even when a prisoner was on a psychotic medication when released they are hooked up with a regional mental health and substance abuse center to make their reentry as flourishing (Boehm, D.P. , & Lampert, R. O. , 2008, October). At 157 percent capacity, San Quintin State Prison, a maximum security prison is no doubt overcrowded and it costs about $49,000 each year for an adult inmate to be housed in the San Quintin State Prison (Sterngold, J. , 2008, July/August). Taxpayers are unwilling to pass levees to build facilities to house prisoners which lead to an overcrowding prison.

The criminal justice system needs to have stronger sentences for crimes to deter people from offending to begin with and not release inmates early due to overcrowding. Inmates are being released early because there are not enough beds to hold all of the criminals. In the end it leads to a higher crime rate because the inmate’s count of being released early and they are not being reformed. A way to reduce funding problems is to have inmates take care of their own facilities like they would their homes.Cleaning supplies can be handed to the inmates and it can be their job to clean the showers. It should not be the responsibility of the prison staff to keep the facility clean, the inmates should be given duties and be held accountable or forced to live in the conditions they allow for themselves. Funds should not be taken from the taxpayers to pay someone to clean up after the inmates, the taxpayers’ funds could be used for security and building to prevent additional overcrowding.

The problem with many jails and prisons today is the upkeep.Most facilities today do not have the funding to build a brand new facility but what needs to happen is to make the additions and upgrades more efficient. Replacing a furnace or air conditioning system for a place a huge as a prison could be extremely time consuming and expensive especially if the newer model is not the most efficient and then has to be replaced again and again prematurely. The best way to spend the taxpayers’ money is to buy the most energy efficient and best model and not replace it as often. As the age old saying, “you get what you pay for. The same goes for other materials when doing an addition or fixing an existing structure, the administrators need to take the time to research and see what the best materials are for longevity and spend money wisely (Lucas, R. , 2009, November/December).

As Robert Lucas (2009) said, “Money spent well at the beginning of a project may save the facility from spending more in the future. ” Like California, many other states have the “three strikes” rule and one of every nine of the inmates who are on their third strike get 25 to life sentence (Haerens, M. , 2010, May 15). This rule contributes to the vercrowding issue which an individual is taking up more space in jails and prisons. For example, if a person is charged three times with felony drug trafficking and is convicted that would be the third offence and would serve twenty-five year to life in jail. A violent offender, like a murderer, could that the place of that individual and rot in jail and make the community safer, it is the lesser of two evils. There are many factors that contribute to prison and jail overcrowding, funding, upkeep, three strikes rule, taxpayers not wanting to pass levees and the fact that so many people each year are incarcerated.

Funding can be redirected if the upgrades were made more efficiently around the prisons. To help save money, inmates can do daily duties and have responsibilities around the prison and jail grounds. The three strikes rule needs to be revised to focus on violent crimes. Tax payers need to stop complaining about criminals in the community unless they are willing to pass the levees to build jails and prisons to lessen the likelihood of overcrowding.


  • Boehm, D. P. , & Lampert, R.O. (2008, October). Thinking Outside the Cell: Expanding Safety and Security Beyond the Perimeter. Corrections Today, 70 (5). p. 4-61, Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Resource Center. Diiulio, Jr., J. (2010, March). Prison Breakout. America,202 (6). p. 11, Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Resource Center. Haerens, M.
  • (2010, May 15). California’s “Three Strikes” Law Is Fair. ” Opposing Viewpoints: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, Retrieved from Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Lucas, R. (2009, November/December). To Build or Not To Build? American Jails,23 (5).p. 4&93, Retrieved from Criminal Justice Periodicals Index Resource Center. Sterngold, J. (2008, July/August). Worst of the Worst. Mother Jones, 33 (4).

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