Prison Overcrowiding and the Laws that Made Them that Way

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One of the major reasons that prisons have overcrowded is that crime control strategies and legislative changes have meant longer sentencing (Mcshane, 2008). A study in 2006 showed the change in the State and Federal prison population from 1990 to 2005. In 1990 there was a total of 773,124 inmates. In 2005, that number increased to 2,186,230 (Harrison & Beck, 2006). The three- strikes laws has a great impact on the overpopulation of our prison systems because it means more life sentencing with a lesser possibility of parole for most offenders. The three-strike laws are a form of the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws.

The majority of the mandatory minimum sentencing laws apply to drug crimes. These laws limit the judicial discretion of all judges on drug cases. Individuals’ who are convicted of particular crimes must be punished in accordance to the Mandatory minimums laws which state that at least the minimum sentence is required. This law weakens the Criminal Justice System in many ways. The law prevents judges from fitting the punishment and or sentence according to the individual and the circumstances of the crime committed. Due to the law’s limitation to the discretion of judges, federal and state prisons are overcrowding at the cost of taxpayers.

Before this law, general sentencing of a convicted individual was decided by a judge after the individual has plead guilty or if found guilty in trial. The general sentencing was decided based on the crime and the circumstances, the punishment was intended to be proportional to the crime committed (Champion, 2008). Judges were able to use their discretion on sentencing in accordance to the federal and state sentencing guidelines. However, when the Mandatory Minimum Sente...

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...for longer periods of time which eventually leads to overcrowding and overpopulation of inmates in our correctional facilities.

Works Cited

Broderick, V. (1998). Criminal justice: Opposing viewpoints. (p. 114). San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Champion, D. (2008). Sentencing: Jail and prison overcrowding. (p. 39). Santa Barbra, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Chemerinsky, E. (2010). Mandatory minimum sentencing. (pp. 82-83). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Harrison, P., & Beck, A. J. U.S Department of Justice, (2006). Prison and jail inmates at midyear 2005 (NCJ213133). Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics website:

Mcshane, M. (2008). Prisons in america. (pp. 239-240). New York, NY: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC.

Walsh, J. (2007). Three strikes laws. (p. 50). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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