In the past four decades, there has been a staggering increase in the United States prison population at the local and state level. Currently there are 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails that has added up to a 500% increase over 40 years (The sentencing project). The cause of this prison growth is a variety of laws and punitive sentencing policies that were initiated starting in the early 1970’s. Policies such as harsh drug penalties for non-violent crimes, Mandatory Minimum Maximum sentences and the Three Strikes law have all contributed to America’s current problem of mass incarceration.
Since the policy was enacted in the early 1990s, three strikes laws have been one of the most controversial issues facing the American criminal justice system. In general, advocates believe that locking up criminals will protect society. Critics believe that three-strike policy can only be effective with offenders that are on their last strikes (Worrall, 2008). However, other critics explain how three-strike laws don’t significantly reduce crime because most criminals mature out of the criminal lifestyle (Worrall, 2004).
31,928 incarcerated in Maryland prisons and jails (The Sentencing Project, n.d.). More than 2.3 million people incarcerated nationwide (Peter Wagner, Bernadette Rabuy, 2017). The United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population but has 21% of the world’s prisoners (NAACP, n.d.) – quite astonishing statistics considering that forty years ago, there were only about 350,000 people in prison (Alexander, Michelle, 2014). This phenomenon is called mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is an ongoing issue created by the War on Drugs, crime, and institutionalized racism.
Mass incarceration has recently become a major problem within the United States. Although crime rates have dropped since the 1990s, incarceration rates have soared. This trend is largely associated with increased enforcement of drug-related crimes. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, this problem involves racial discrepancies when regarding these mass incarcerations. Incarcerations appear to be the most prominent throughout urban areas and the south, which happen to be the areas where African American males often reside or where racial politics are known to be apparent. In turn, this leads to disproportionate imprisonments. This problem requires immediate attention, but aspects of state and local politics have intensified incarcerations due a variety of factors, which include the state’s focus on the financial incentives that the federal war on drugs has created, the “tough on crime” stance that many politicians posses (largely republican), and the lack of rehabilitation services.
Mass incarceration is a large-scale problem that has emerged in recent decades. The reason for this lies in new laws and policies that crackdown on drug-related offenses. Since these policies have taken effect, the percent of people in prisons and jails has grown by 500% (The Sentencing Project). The 2015 population of inmates in either prison or jail was 2,173,800, this makes the United States the world leader in number of incarcerated people (The Sentencing Project). However, the rise in jail and prison populations has not spanned equally among races. The population of prisoners in 2015 was 1,476,847, with 523,000 of those prisoners being African American (The Sentencing Project). African Americans make up 13% of the population in the United
Over the past few decades, the United States has witnessed a huge surge in the number of individuals in jail and in prison. Evidence suggests the mass imprisonment policy from the last 40 years was a horrible catastrophe. Putting more people in prison not only ruined lives, it disrupted families, prevented ex-prisoners to find housing, to get an education, or even a good job. Regrettably, the United States has a higher percent of its population incarcerated than any other country. America is responsible for a quarter of the world’s inmates, and its incarceration rate is increasing exponentially. The expense produced by these overcrowded prisons cost the country a substantial amount of money every year. Although people are incarcerated for a number of reasons, the country’s prisons are focused on punishment rather than reform, and the result is a misguided system that fails to rehabilitate criminals or discourage crime. By researching mass incarceration, I hope to get society to understand that incarcerating an individual not only effects the family, but we will look at the long term consequences on society and how the United States can remain safe and, at the same time, undo much of the damage that results from large-scale imprisonment.
For many years, drugs have been the center of crime and the criminal justice system in the United States. Due to this widespread epidemic, President Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs” in 1971 with a campaign that promoted the prohibition of illicit substances and implemented policies to discourage the overall production, distribution, and consumption. The War on Drugs and the U.S. drug policy has experienced the most significant and complex challenges between criminal law and the values of today’s society. With implemented drug polices becoming much harsher over the years in order to reduce the overall misuse and abuse of drugs and a expanded federal budget, it has sparked a nation wide debate whether or not they have created more harm than good. When looking at the negative consequences of these policies not only has billions of dollars gone to waste, but the United States has also seen public health issues, mass incarceration, and violent drug related crime within the black market in which feeds our global demands and economy. With this failed approach for drug prohibition, there continues to be an increase in the overall production of illicit substances, high rate of violence, and an unfavorable impact to our nation.
The War on Drugs in the United States has a profound influence on both the incarceration rates and activities of the criminal justice system. Many politicians and advocates of the policy claim that the War on Drugs is a necessary element to deter criminal behavior and reduce the crime rate. However, studies show that drug deterrent policies on possession and use have been inadequate and unsuccessful (Cole & Gertz, 2013). Studies also show that the War on Drugs has not attained its objectives because the policy exhibits racial discrepancy as it has led to the disproportionate incarceration of Blacks and minorities. Specifically, evidence indicates that the upper class, generally White individuals, is more likely to use powered cocaine while
To formulate the law, it was decided that the most valuable approach to reduce violent crimes was through a mandated policy decision requiring identification through past behavior of those who demonstrated clear conduct to participate in violent criminal and whose conduct was not discouraged by the usual concepts of punishment. Reed (2004) stated, “The overall purpose of punishment within the criminal justice system is to prevent the commission of crimes to deter recidivism. For this objective to be successful, punishment must be effective in addressing the problems and solutions for the entire system, not just in individual cases” (p. 502). In reducing crimes, various methods and theories are taken into account. Some of these methods are additional police, additional courts, mandatory sentencing, and increased prosecutorial resources (Reed, 2004). Because the Three Strikes Law varies from state to state, this leads to the many problems it causes in the criminal justice system.
There is no question that mass incarceration is a worldwide epidemic that needs to be discussed and addressed. America has five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population (Just Leadership USA, 2017) Various policies dated back centuries helped to create this problem of mass incarceration (Just Leadership USA, 2017). Today there are 2.3 million Americans incarcerated throughout the state, local, and federal jails (Just Leadership USA, 2017). New York City (NYC) houses approximately 10,000 inmates per year; 43.7% of these inmates are diagnosed with having a mental health disability (New York City Department of Corrections, 2017). 54% of the inmates on Rikers Island are arrested for a minor offense and should be able to fight their cases from home; however, in many instances the family members are of low socio-economic status and unable to post bail (New York City Department of Corrections, 2017). Minor offenses include loitering, jumping the turnstiles, unnecessary Parole / Probation violations, and trespassing. In many instances, it is the mentally ill and homeless individuals who are arrested for trespassing as they elect to sleep in the subways instead of taking residency in a shelter. Moreover, many of these offenses does not have to result in an arrest. Police officers have the autonym to let some of these individuals go with a warning, desk ticket, and/or summons.
The Cause of Mass Incarceration mass incarceration is a big problem in the United States, it has affected our country multiple ways whether it gives our country a bad reputation with the highest number of incarcerated in the world, or it gives us a bad image and makes seem as if the United States is a dangerous and terrible place to live in. The rate of incarcerated has increased from 300,000 prisoners in the early 1970’s to 2.3 million today. Some of the causes of mass incarceration involve the war on drugs and racial discrimination. The war on drugs is a big factor in mass incarceration, as it is said in ACL.org, “Drug arrests now account for a quarter of the people locked up in America” This means that more than half a million people are in prison due to use or possession of drugs. Another big factor to consider for a cause of mass incarceration is racial discrimination according to ACL.org “One in three black men can expect to be incarcerated in his lifetime. Compare that to one in six Latino males and one in 17 white males.” This a very big difference between the three different races blacks having the highest probability of being incarcerated compared to whites. These are not the only factors of mass incarceration in our judicial system, there are many more flaws in our judicial system that has caused it to overflow prisons throughout the states. Therefore, what is the biggest flaw in our criminal justice system? That is causing the majority of incarcerations in the U.S.
Mass Incarceration is a huge problem in United States culture. No other country in the world incarcerates its population the way that America does. “The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.” Worse yet the majority of the incarcerated individuals belong to a minority group despite not participating in illegal activity any more frequently than their white counterparts. Is the United States criminal justice system racist and if so what is the cause behind this racism. After the end of slavery, many southern black Americans traveled to the north to escape endless violence and discrimination. In the south they could only find low paying field jobs whereas in the northern cities there were steady factory jobs promised as well as the hope that discrimination could be escaped. The northerners while against slavery were not egalitarian and were not in favor of hoards of black Americans surging into their cities and taking jobs away from the white working poor. The need for social control by white Americans only grew with the population of black Americans living in the cities and working in the factories. The rhetoric of “law and order” first came about in the late 1950s as white opposition to the Civil Rights Movement was encouraged by southern governors and law enforcement.
When you think of mass incarceration it is imperative to look at the causes that affect minorities. One major thing that produced an increase in mass incarceration is the war on drugs. The war on drugs has impacted minorities in a major way. The war on drugs pushed policymakers to structure laws that were targeting underprivileged individual mainly minorities group. In addition, “The deinstitutionalisation of people with mental illnesses, and punitive sentencing policies such as three-strike laws (mandating life imprisonment for third offences of even relatively minor felonies) and mandatory minimum sentences for specific offence, even for some first0time offenders undoubtedly helped to both launch mass incarceration and keep it going” (Wilderman, & Wang, 2017, p. 1466). The war on drugs came during a time when crack cocaine became widespread in the black community. The popularity of crack cocaine became prevalent and accessible for many low-income individuals. Therefore, the high rate of crime that was induced by the crack epidemic forced many jobs to leave the communities. However, the structuring of laws put more emphasis on crack cocaine than powder cocaine. Not to mention, crack cocaine is prevalent in minority communities, and powder cocaine is present in the majority community. According to Martensen (2012), “Not only does this deny accessible goods and services to local residents, it likewise decreases the local job opportunities available for community members” (p. 214). Consequently, many African American called on the police to take action against the same people that looked just like them. Crutchfield, & Weeks (2015) states, “Some of the changes during this period of increased incarceration that disadvantaged people of color coming into the justice system were implemented with the help and support of African American political leadership” (p. 109). Therefore, lawmakers had to come up with a solution to address the issue. Law-makers created laws that put emphasis on arresting drug dealers for selling drugs. These small-time drug dealers were becoming a hazard to the community. However, the laws begin to cause harm to all that looked brown or black whether
In the U.S. there has been a rise in incarcerations, the numbers today are much higher than they were 30, 40 years ago despite the fact that crime is at historic lows. So what are we to make of the leap in time typically served for crimes in America’s society? Either the justice system was too lenient in the past, or the justice system is too strict now. Have we just now realized the real gravity of murder, or are we now overreacting? The United States currently over-incarcerates its citizens, prisoners have become part of the economy, manufacturing and assembling products for major corporations. Based on the research, it would be unethical to continue a trend of mass incarceration when the conditions are unsustainable, inhumane, and the product of unethical polices.
The major cause of mass incarceration in the United States is Bail. Recently there are several reforms that were passed, and there are several proposals under consideration to fix this issue. A lot of people that are incarcerated toady committed low offense charges. Hence, we need a fairer, and more effective justice system so that more people could walk free rather than being locked up. With that said, bail is used today as an entrapment, which opposed its original purpose. Most importantly, of the people that are in jail, 60 percent haven’t been convicted of anything. As we can see, mass incarceration makes our country worsted off, and we need to do something about it.