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Overcrowding in U.S. correctional facilities is a significant issue that highlights the role of administrators in terms of regulating the situation. It is worth noting that different states across the country have to deal with large numbers of inmates because of the high incarceration rates for both violent and non-violent offenders. The situation seems to aggravate each year hence revealing gaps in the management of correctional facilities and matters relating to their overall operations. The continuous use of incarceration as a form of punishment and rehabilitation in the U.S. has played an instrumental role in the increase in the number of inmates hence creating a crisis that needs urgent administrative address and regulation.
Research in this area affects my personal approach to justice administration as it makes me appreciate the need for change in the justice system. This research reveals some of the key gaps existing in justice administration hence backing the view that justice can only be delivered with better systems in place.
Thesis: This paper explicates the view that prison overcrowding limits the efficiency of the justice system to rehabilitate offenders because it exposes them to violence and massive health risks.
The Background of Overcrowding in US Prisons
The United States relies on imprisonment as one of the most significant ways of punishing offenders and rehabilitating them to become better individuals in society. According to McElwee (2013), the U.S. holds the record of high incarceration rates on the global scale as at least one in every 100 adults is in jail. Overcrowding in U.S. correctional facilities emanates from high incarceration rates for both violent and non-violent offenders and the inability of the justice system to deal with recidivism in the country. McElwee (2013) affirms that at least seven states in the country have to deal with an extra 25% of the inmate population. Alabama is the leading state in terms of overcrowding with 196%, and Illinois comes in second at 144% above the required capacity.
Racial disparities have been highly evident in different prisons across the country. Davenports (2010) report on the research by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reveals that most of the prison population comprises over 40% of blacks. This peculiarity also raises the issue of racial profiling in the justice system hence pointing out the need to reform the entire system and ensure prison numbers are reduced most effectively. Taxpayers have been charged with the responsibility of financing the operation of prisons hence raising many questions on the commitment of the country to minimizing the number of people held up in prisons. Campers (2012) asserts that the government spends an estimated $75 million on correctional facilities that pose the demand for effective mechanisms to address the issue.
There have been proposals relating to the privatization of U.S. correctional facilities for ensuring that they are not funded by taxpayers. Privatization has also been promoted on grounds of safety of prisoners including quality life as they reform. However, the American Civil Liberties Union has maintained that privatization will not solve the situation because most of these prisons feature overcrowding and high levels of violence.
The Significance of Overcrowding in U.S. Prisons
It is noteworthy that overcrowding in U.S. correctional facilities remains a significant issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The significance raised by the issue calls upon management to take effective measures to ensure that the issue is wholly addressed.
- Firstly, it is of significance to management because of increased violence among inmates. Notably, the pressure arising due to scarce resources has led to increased violence and assault among prisoners as they compete for the limited resources. For instance, numerous cases of violence have been reported at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility because of increased pressure on the limited resources. Knafo (2013) is of the view that at least 217,000 American prisoners are raped every year hence indicating their vulnerability in large numbers.
- Secondly, overcrowding in prisons remains a significant issue because it exposes inmates to health hazards that lead to premature deaths. Weatherburn, Wan, and Corben (2014) agree that it is easier for contagious diseases to spread within overcrowded prisons hence exposing healthy prisoners to unbearable health conditions. This situation is worsened by the fact that most inmates are not in a position to access proper medical care while serving their sentences. Many deaths that have been reported in different U.S. correctional facilities are brought about by the high levels of disease spread from one prisoner to another through close contacts among prisoners due to limited space. Other forms of assault and violence include stabbings and beatings among prisoners.
- Lastly, the issue is significant to management because it exposes inmates to high levels of stress. Many inmates have been forced to deal with rising levels of stress brought about by the growing population. The fear of being attacked in prison puts pressure on different prisoners thus creating stress among them. Stress is also highly linked to the increasing levels of violence within overcrowded prisons. Officers managing prisons face difficulties when handling inmates because of their rising stress levels.
Christian Perspective of the Issue
Christianity has not forgotten the plight of prisoners. It is worth acknowledging that the plight of prisoners has been widely quoted in the Bible hence making it necessary for authorities to take drastic measures that facilitate quality living for prisoners. The Christian perspective requires the community to take care of prisoners and ensure their needs are provided so that they come out as better citizens.
For instance, (Matthew 25:31-46, New International Version) emphasizes the need to take care of prisoners when they are in jail. He highlights the need to offer prisoners some form of comfort. It does not directly talk about overcrowding but emphasizes the need to offer prisoners comfort while they serve the sentences that give them hope and indicate the responsibility of individuals in fulfilling the will of God. Therefore, prisoners should be treated humanely because they are also God's children.
Additionally, (Genesis 39:20-23, King James Bible) talks of Joseph's time in prison and the favor that God gave him while he was behind bars. God is always there to protect inmates, but other individuals such as correctional officers and managers have the responsibility of protecting prisoners and ensuring they also achieve the best while serving their sentences. Overall, there is the presentation of the view that God is always with prisoners while they serve their respective sentences. Management should take drastic measures to ensure inmates get a better life as they serve their sentences.
Solution with Policy/Guidance Recommendation Including Three Choices
The recommended solution for this issue is to avoid the massive incarceration of individuals in the community. Rapid arrests and pieces of judgment leading to the incarceration of offenders have contributed to the skyrocketing prison population. James (2014) reiterates that it would be vital for administrators to embrace the incarceration reduction policy by controlling recidivism and ensuring that non-violent offenders are given alternative punishments such as house arrests and community service.
Continuous monitoring of these offenders would play an instrumental role in the reduction of the levels of incarceration hence easing pressure on the available correctional facilities. Three significant options should be considered when dealing with this issue. These options are discussed as follows.
Do Nothing Option
The management could see the effect of this solution through the do-nothing option. They do nothing option means that administrators will have to leave the existing situation as it is at present in the hope that nature takes its course. In line with the do-nothing option, the problem situation would be effectively solved through the reduction in recidivism among members of society. This part of the policy recommendation does not involve any form of reinforcement as everything is supposed to fall into place on its own.
Overall, incarcerations are claimed to be gradually reduced thanks to the natural responsibility of people who understand the law and take effective measures to avoid being part of targeted criminals. According to Miller (2010), this option entails the belief that the justice system will be fair in its judgments hence giving individuals some sense of reprieve in respect to sentencing. All these considerations contribute to the reduction in the number of incarcerated individuals.
This option comes with two significant pros. One of the most significant advantages of this policy recommendation is that it ensures everything is kept simple in the process of enforcing change. Consequently, the do-nothing option ensures that management does not take any measures toward addressing the issue. This approach allows escaping any form of complications and interference with the current situation. The simplicity of the option is easy for all parties involved to understand hence facilitating the required changes.
The second advantage of this option is an appreciation of the current situation. Reno, Marcus, Leary, and Gist (2010) assert that management must always understand and appreciate the current situation before moving forward to initiate any changes within the justice system. The do-nothing option makes it easier for all administrators to analyze and accept the current situation hence ensuring that the required changes will take place naturally, without human involvement.
However, this option is disadvantageous because it indicates a lack of commitment toward change in the justice systems. Administrators in the justice system will automatically be considered non-committed in cases where they embrace this policy approach. Ultimately, they are not ready to appreciate the change and come up with new systems that might be more effective in regulating the number of inmates in incarceration facilities.
This option does not effectively bring about the required change because of the tendency to avoid the existing situation. It does not take the existing situation head-on hence making it difficult to come up with an appropriate system that would ensure that the levels of incarceration are effectively reduced in the United States. It retards the process of positive change toward policy promotion and the assurance of a more efficient administrative mechanism.
The Incremental Approach
The incremental approach will entail the evaluation of the existing policy relating to the incarceration of individuals. Currently, both violent and non-violent offenders are imprisoned hence leading to an increase in prison numbers, which put pressure on the current correctional facilities. For instance, McElwee (2013) informs that violent offenders account for at least 60% while non-violent offenders account for 40% of the overall number of prisoners. The incremental approach to this policy will require the modification of the existing policy to regulate prison populations.
Specifically, the incremental approach will require the removal of the imprisonment policy for non-violent offenders. These individuals can be given alternative sentences instead of being sent to prison. For example, they could be given community services and restitution that would be significant in keeping them apart from violent offenders. This improvement would subsequently cut down the number of prisoners across the country.
The first significant advantage of this option is that it effectively improves the existing policy. Davenport (2010) holds the view that the incremental approach is effective because it easily identifies gaps in the existing policy hence offering the opportunity for better performance of the system. For instance, the non-violent approach would be eliminated hence alleviating the existing population pressure on prisons. The improvement of existing policy makes it easier for management to deliver desirable outcomes to the relevant stakeholders hence redeeming the image of the country as a change promoter.
Secondly, the incremental approach is advantageous because it simplifies the process of policy implementation especially because it relies on the existing policy to advance change within the system. It only requires an improvement of the existing policy hence leading to the realization of the desired results. Ultimately, this approach is a simplified way of introducing change in the justice system because it works with the existing gaps in the system.
Nevertheless, the incremental approach is disadvantageous because of its conservative nature. This approach embraces a conservative nature on matters relating to change. It works with the existing policy hence ensuring nothing new is put into place for the success of new programs. It does not give room to new ideas that could be extremely transformative in cases where sound reforms are needed in the administration of justice.
Overall, the incremental approach cannot be wholly relied on because of its focus on limited options. It does not create new approaches to addressing the existing challenges in the system hence making it difficult for management to realize the desired goals. Vigne and Samuels (2013) argue that the option to improve the existing policy offers limited solutions to the numerous problems that require answers in the justice system. Therefore, the incremental approach cannot be wholly reliable because of its weakness in bringing about the required changes in the justice system.
Full Implementation Approach
The full implementation approach entails the development of a new policy that is different from the status quo. In line with the full implementation approach, administrators will come up with a new policy involving the design of community supervision programs and strategies that promote proper behavior. James (2014) shares the view that some of the prisoners are repeat offenders because of the lack of adequate resources to guide them. Full implementation will entail the design of community supervision programs and strategies that involve educating individuals on adherence to law and order.
Communities would be frequently guided on law and order and common offenses addressed to them that will automatically lead to a change in the conduct of people in the society including the decline of petty offenses leading to incarceration. Therefore, the number of individuals arrested and incarcerated will gradually fall because of the efforts toward community reformation and propagation of quality conduct.
The first advantage of this approach is the development of a new policy that tackles the current challenge. Full implementation sets the ground by coming up with new ideas that enhance the required reforms in the justice system. The justice system will be more stable with fresh ideas that are fully implemented. The goal of reducing the population of inmates across different prisons will be achieved through educational programs targeting to inform the community of the need to stay on the correct side of the law.
Additionally, it is advantageous because it eliminates all gaps existing in the justice system. This approach will be instrumental in wiping away most of the gaps in the justice system hence facilitating the realization of a better system as envisaged through prevailing of justice in society.
The only disadvantage of the full implementation approach is that it could lead to the adoption of ineffective strategies that could weaken the system further. Knafo (2013) asserts that the new ideas that are brought about might not address the existing need adequately hence posing challenges to the realization of desired goals. The new ideas might not easily fit into the current system hence aggravating the existing situation within the society.
Nevertheless, the full implementation approaches emerge as the best solution in terms of introducing changes in prison management. The management is in a better position to twists different systems and ensure that the best possible approach is undertaken to save the country from recording high cases of imprisonment among individuals. The management will be more focused on violent offenders compared to non-violent offenders that do not necessarily have to be incarcerated.
In conclusion, the issue of overcrowding in U.S. correctional facilities has remained a concern for administrators in the justice system. The U.S. is ranked number one globally in terms of arrests as one in every 100 men in the country is arrested and subsequently incarcerated. Population pressure in prisons is a significant issue because it tends to promote violence among prisoners through rape, fights, and knife stabs.
Furthermore, this issue is significant because of its contribution to health problems through the continuous spread of diseases. The high population forces them to share different facilities that make it easier for diseases to spread among prisoners. Christianity is against prisoner discrimination because inmates are recognized as God's children. The Bible calls upon everyone in society to be steadfast when it comes to attending to prisoners and promoting their rights because it is a direct service to God.
Administrators in the justice system could rely on this teaching to implement change. The recommended solution to the issue is to reduce mass arrests which could be achieved by coming up with strategies and policies that inform communities of the significance of living within the law. The full implementation approach implies a new approach to the matter through community awareness programs that help mitigate both violent and non-violent crimes hence reducing arrests and incarceration rates.