Prison Overcrowding

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In my opinion, the most critical issue facing the United States criminal justice system is prison overcrowding. The criminal justice system needs to address this because of the harmful consequences that arise for prisoners, which include reduced standards of living, increased levels of violence, and prisoners’ inability to assimilate into society. There are a few solutions for to address the issue, which include reducing prison sentences and allowing non-violent criminals to undergo other correctional options. Reduced standards of living is the most important reason prison overcrowding is such a problem today. In overcrowded prisons, inmates are forced to live in cells packed with too many people and experience less than adequate sanitary conditions. Also, it is difficult to ensure everyone receives proper treatment, such as medical care, or for the state to even adequately fund it. It is imperative that this be resolved because they could make imprisonment be considered as cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution’s Eight Amendment since these conditions can create physical and psychological stresses. In fact, this is the reason California was ordered to decrease its prison population in the 2009 case Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, as the reduced medical and mental health care violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (Reid, 512). Overall, no stage of the criminal justice system is supposed to violate an individual’s constitutional rights, yet the existence of prison overcrowding appears to do so. A second reason prison overcrowding is such a significant problem is the increased chances of violent incidences, such as physical assaults against inmates and self-inflicted violence. Also, sexual violence is a concern, wi... ... middle of paper ... ...g to overcrowding, the offender also could benefit from the drug treatment, life skills training, and job assistance opportunities that he or she would not be to receive while in prison (Reid, 558). In addition, the criminal could be placed under house arrest and be watched by a GPS or electronically monitored. Benefits of this option include cost effectiveness and availability to make space in prisons for violent criminals since the convicted individual would still be able to reside in his or her own property (Reid, 560). Overall, to implement these solutions to prison overcrowding, states need to first experiment with these alternative sentencing options to figure out which is the most effective program under each particular crime. Though the issue of prison overcrowding may be challenging, there are viable options that can be used by the criminal justice system.

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