The Flaws of Incarceration in America

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The United States has a larger 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 growing exponentially. The expense generated by these overcrowded prisons cost the country a substantial amount of money every year. While 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. The ineffectiveness of the United States’ criminal justice system is caused by mass incarceration of non-violent offenders, racial profiling, and a high rate of recidivism. The majority of prisoners incarcerated in America are non-violent offenders. This is due mainly to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which is a method of prosecution that gives offenders a set amount of prison time for a crime they commit if it falls under one of these laws, regardless of their individual case analysis. These laws began in the 1980s, when the use of illegal drugs was hitting an all time high (Conyers 379). The United States began enacting legislature that called for minimum sentencing in an effort to combat this “war on drugs.” Many of these laws give long sentences to first time offenders (Conyers). The “three strikes” law states that people convicted of drug crimes on three separate occasions can face life in prison. These laws were passed for political gain, as the American public was swept into the belief that the laws would do nothing other than help end the rampant drug crimes in the country. The laws are still in effect today, and have not succeeded to discourage people from using drugs. Almost fifty percent... ... middle of paper ... ... America's Prisons. Noah Berlatsky. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Sentencing Laws Are Senseless." Arizona Daily Star 2 Mar. 2008. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. Justice Policy Institute. "Drug Treatment Programs Are a Viable Alternative to Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences." Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Ed. Margaret Haerens. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Effective Investments in Public Safety." 2008. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. Martensen, Kayla. "The Price That US Minority Communities Pay: Mass Incarceration And The Ideologies That Fuel Them." Contemporary Justice Review 15.2 (2012): 211-222. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. Pitock, Todd. "Jailhouse Blues." Saturday Evening Post 285.1 (2013): 44. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. .
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