The United States is often revered to as the world’s pioneering nation. We set the bar for other first world countries in terms of innovation, breakthroughs and even quality of life. We are the nation people flock to for the American Dream. We hold the possibility of a comfortable and sustainable life. With so many prospects, it is hard to imagine that the United States of America needs improvements and adaptations in order to better serve its population justly. We are decades behind in terms of our detention practices. According to the ACLU.org, the United States accounts for almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners even though we only account for 5 percent of the world’s population. This can, and is most often attributed to the following factors: the privatization of prisons, normalized policies, as well as the hardships many former inmates have in reestablishing a better life beyond prison– which generally guarantees them a life in and out of our correctional facilities.
We currently have 21,359 federal inmates housed in private prisons (Federal Bureau of Prisons). It is a common notion that private prisons are good in terms of cutting cost and serve to be more effective by means of daily inmate protocol and procedures. However, when the state of Arizona compared private and state funded prisons – their findings did not coincide. Arizona’s Corrections Department concluded that housing inmates in state funded prisons was less expensive once all proper medical allocations were applied per inmate. Additionally, an audit by Florida’s Department of Management Services found that although Florida’s crime rate had slightly dropped, private prisons cost the state 10 million dollars in 2005. Such expenditures were a result of fraud and corruption by CCA and GEO, their private prison companies. The companies were charging the state for services not performed, vacant employee positions and other salary expenses. Other benefits often associated with private prisons are that they help equilibrate prison populations. Although that is a factual statement, it is often forgone that a recent ITPI study found that 65 percent of private prisons had occupancy contracts. These contracts ensure that there will be at least a minimum amount of beds filled at every given moment. The percentage of beds required to be filled vary between states and companies, however the most alarming required occupancy requests were 95% and 100% – often yielding unnecessary arrest.
According to the Sentencing Project, half of our federal prison occupants are serving time for drug offensives and the probability for being incarcerated increases variant on skin color, alongside educational level and socioeconomic status. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 35% of prisoners are white, 38% are black, and 21% are Hispanic – however when you factor in the overall general population, where 62% are white, 13% are black, and 17% are Hispanic, you see the disproportionate representation that people of color face in our jails. Current enforcement and policing policies in our communities help attribute these high percentages. Generally, officers enforce laws stricter in urban communities of color than their affluent counterparts. The National Institute of Justice has gone on record stating that although officers are trained to avoid discrimination, they still rely on cultural stereotypes when on duty, thus increasing the probability to prosecute and jail minorities. Racial profiling, alongside quotas and urban policing ensue an array of problems both judicially and communally. Policies such as “3 Strikes” laws have also systematically marginalized people of color and helped fuel the current inmate overpopulation. A recent analysis by the Department of Corrections found that 85% of all inmates jailed under third strike laws were guilty of nonviolent offenses. Such laws aim to punish repeat offenders with the toughest sentences; however, they inadvertently helped compile the highest rate of imprisonment in the world.
Ex-offenders are released with a variety of social and economic obstacles. Many times, the adversity inflicted prevent them from obtaining sustainability, consequently forcing them back to a life of crime. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 68% of all offenders return to prison. Amongst the most notable reasons for their return, is the inability for ex-cons to gain employment either because of lack of experience or employer qualm. A survey concluded that only 12.5% of employers would accept applications from former inmates, furthermore, various other studies have found that 70% of ex-offenders are high school dropouts – only widening the gap for a successful reintegration into society. A 2002 Milwaukee study found that African-Americans were two-thirds less likely to receive job offers. Further supplementing the over representation of blacks in our incarceration systems. The access to livelihood directly coordinates to recidivism. Our detention systems are doing a poor job at properly reentering ex-felons into our society, they are not providing sufficient real work readiness. They are also not equipped to properly address other key factors such as physical, mental and health issues that would impede on adequate self-sustainability. Additionally, collateral consequences from previous offenses hinder felon’s abilities to access basic programs such as food stamps, obtaining housing and other basic rights such as voting. The American Bar Association list 47,442 newly imposed legal restrictions on previous offenders. The restrictions vary from an array of straight forwardly limiting the ability to apply for federal grants to vague and inexplicit language that hinders the ability to qualify for public housing or housing voucher programs. Such methodologies work as social and mental shackles and limit the success rate of rehabilitation and proper social mergence. According the U.S. Department of Justice, 1,706,600 minor children had at least one parent detained in our incarnation system during 2007. Over half of the parents in state prisons provide the primary care for their children. More than half of the parents in state prisons had a relative who had been previously incarcerated before them. We can correlate a trend, that generally, the inability of being able to provide leads to the higher probability that an offender or a family of a felon will face jail time. Felony disenfranchisement is an overwhelmingly contributing factor into our high population in prisons. The United States currently houses 6.1 million Americans that cannot vote due to a prior felony conviction, thus culminating a feeling of under representation. The policies in place also widen the gap between communities of color and law enforcement that result in the normalization on inadequate policing procedures.
Although the United States is known as a nation of justice and civil liberties, we still practice and maintain several procedures that are outdated and have proven to be ineffective for our ever-changing country. The nation currently faces an alarming rate of incarceration, the highest in record, and the number of people being imprisoned is steadily growing. A few factors that directly affect the rate of incarceration are private prisons systems that have been proven to have minimum bed occupancy requirements in order to see a return in investment and ensure overall company profitability. Also, the overwhelming policing in communities of color for minor offenses significantly drive up the number of persons incarcerated especially when compared to other affluent neighborhoods. Finally, recidivism is generally the most common reason for our high rates of person per prisons. Felons face notably high unwarranted and unforeseen challenges after release that are more often than not, the driving force for them to revert back to a life of crime. Although there are various programs that offer help and support for ex-cons, more needs to be done to break the systematic bounds and hurdles that felons with aspirations to reform face. We need to address the ineffective policies that help title the Unites States of America as the industrialized world’s number one in prisoner.
Mass Incarceration Research: An Annotated Bibliography
“Unnecessary Incarceration.” American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/unnecessary-incarceration. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
“The United States incarcerates almost 25 percent of the prisoners in the entire world despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population.” The source simplifies an epidemic that faces our nation today that affects a vast majority of minorities. The quote compares the United States to other nations in a comprehensive way and establishes an alarming sentiment in regards to our overall incarceration per population. This is useful and flows well with the premise of my topic because it supplements my ideology that we have an over incarceration issue in the United States. The information is derived from a charity organization whose sole purpose is to defend the wellbeing of inhabitants in our nation. The purpose of this article is to inform the public of a statistical fact.
Reid, Jonathan. “Fact Check: Are State Prisons Cheaper than Private Prisons?” Azcentral, USA Today, 22 Oct. 2014, http://www.azcentral.com/az-fact-check-state-prisons-cheaper-private-prisons. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
“Corrections Department study that attempts to compare prison types on a level playing field concluded that per inmate costs were cheaper in state-run prisons than in private prisons.” The source elaborates on the different methodologies that private and state funded prisons practice. Although technical true, private prisons are initially less expensive than a state funded one coming in at 57.97 versus 60.66, once medical cost are allocated, state funded prisons come in at a lower cost (48.42 vs 53.02). This is a fact checker and provides the journals where the data was derived from thus proving to be reliable. The goal of this sources it to provide facts. This supplements my ideology, initially I didn’t know that per face value a private prison is less expensive, however, once all requirements are factored in, they prove to be a disadvantage.
Fosten, Gerald K. “Perspectives on Social Inequality, Criminal Justice, and Race in the United States: A Critical Analysis.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 9, no. 9, Nov. 2016, pp. 122-141. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
“Politicians who skillfully marginalize certain minority groups accumulate wealth from state resources and minimize the benefits of a racial group that can activate and instigate the insecurity of the dominant group (Manza & Uggen, 2008)” The marginalization of blacks and other people of color has been a foundation of our current enforcement system. Policing around these impoverished / communities of color have been more present and invasive throughout our course of history because of previous policies such as Jim Crow law, third strike laws and the war against drugs. The system has been set up to persecute people whom they can profit either in terms of money or labor from – those who are less likely to fight the unjust arrest or those who are less likely to know their rights.
Kirkham, Chris. “Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers To Fill Beds, Derail Reform.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Sept. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/private-prison-quotas. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
“The group reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning quotas for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those analyzed.” “Most of the contracts had language mandating that at least 90 percent of prison beds be filled.” This also feeds into my topic by directly proving that private prisons encourage a quota system that enables officers to arrest citizens at a higher rate for low / petty crimes. This is should be alarming to everyone because this prompts officers to enforce laws in certain impoverished communities more avidly than other more affluent ones.
Western, Bruce, and Anthony A Barga. “Stress and Hardship After Prison.” Department of Sociology, Oct. 2014, pp. 1–52., scholar.harvard.edu/files/brucewestern/files/trans08.pdf. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
“The data indicate severe material hardship immediately after incarceration. Over half of sample respondents were unemployed, two-thirds received public assistance, and many relied on female relatives for financial support and housing. Older respondents and those with histories of addiction and mental illness were the least socially integrated with weak family ties, unstable housing, and low levels of employment” The findings by the Harvard department of sociology state that life after prison is tumultuous and incur various problems. Not only in financial aspects, but also emotionally and in terms of civility. This will help supplement my text by showing the underlying affects that imprisonment has on people. It also draws into attention the psychological aftermath that we seldom consider when talking about mass incarceration.
Media, American Public. “American RadioWorks: Life After Prison.” American RadioWorks : Hard Time : Life After Prison – Stats and Facts, 2017, americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/hardtime. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
The consequences of imprisonment, especially those ensued after third strike policies or non-violent drug offenses are detrimental to people, especially those with low resources for proper legal representation. The aftermath of entering our correctional system ensures them a straight path right back to prison. They are less likely to get employed, they can no longer vote and they are no longer eligible for government assistance, thus only increasing the likelihood of a repeat offense.