Prison Overcrowding Is Indeed Ghost Writing

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Mechanisms for early release can help reduce overcrowding in prisons and also facilitate integration and social rehabilitation. Policies and legislations should be put in place to provide for possibilities of early release and parole and the conditions for the former. Early release should be structured in such a manner as to make it a part of the normal process of enforcement of the sentence. Prisoners who wish to apply for parole may be encouraged to do so by the necessary authorities.

There is available empirical data indicating that crowded prisons are stressful and create conditions contrary to any aim at rehabilitation. This has increased efforts of finding ways of reducing the overcrowding. A lot of effort has been directed towards making changes to the design and operation of the physical environment of these correctional facilities. Alternatively, ways of reducing the number of incarcerated offenders can be looked into.

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Frustration and reduction of well-being can be caused by a poorly designed physical environment and this is equally applicable to correctional institutions. A major renovation of the medium security, William Head Institution in British Columbia, was undertaken based on the principle that a more "humane" design can set the stage for positive interaction and improved well-being. The project is scheduled for completion in 1992; the idea was to make William Head the first institution of its kind in Canada. The new design concept was influenced a lot by what has been learned from research into the effects of overcrowding in the prison settings. The hard surfaces such as tiled floors reflect rather than absorb noise and this makes the walking, talking, yelling, radios and televisions is incessant in correctional institutions. The William Head design incorporates the use of sound-proofing materials especially carpets and acoustic tiles. The reduction of noise and enhancement of social interaction is achieved by the use of rugs, wall decorations and cushioned chairs. It has been proven that people discuss private matters more openly in such "softly" furnished settings than in a "hard" one with bare floors and walls and hard chairs. Building housing units which holds five or six inmates can alleviate the problems usually associated with clanging cell doors and the general bustle of 40 or 50 inmates living in a cell unit (Johnston, 1991, p. 18).

The major concerns in traditional institution designs are inmate surveillance and external control. The new design concepts emphasize on inmate responsibility and internal or social spheres of control. The new correctional environment affords the inmates a freer range of coping behaviors, a greater degree of control and privacy; this includes being able to "escape" to the privacy of the individual's own space. Privacy which can be generally defined as the control of access to self has been lacking in most old style institutions. Research has showed that inmates housed singly tended to fare the best despite having the least space in square feet. This suggests that the need is not for more room for inmates, but rather for small or moderate amounts of room with a degree of privacy. A private bedroom for each inmate is the important feature of the William Head design. Inmates are allowed to decorate and arrange their rooms and have keys to their rooms, allowing control over access to their private space. Correctional staff have a master key, but this does not allow them to lock inmates in their rooms (Johnston, 1991, p. 20).

Territorial behavior is commonplace in correctional settings; for example, bikers or some ethnic or racial group will habitually occupy a certain area of a cafeteria, but this is not exclusive to them. Territorial behavior is universal and occurs on the street, in the neighborhood and generally anywhere that groups of people are found (Johnston, 1991, p. 21).

Reducing the Incarcerated Population it is not realistic to expect to solve overcrowding problems solely through the construction of more and newer facilities. One researcher puts it that the financial realities of trying to build our way out of the correctional crisis makes today's fiscal conservatives sound like yesterday's rehabilitationists (Rosenfeld & Kempf, 1991, p. 493).

Alternatives to incarceration, such as community supervision and intermediate sanctions, ranging from fines to parole release have been increasingly used in both Canada and the United States as an attempt to reduce the population of correctional facilities, whether current or future. This alternative has proved to be a far more complex and challenging route than that of redesigning the physical environments of correctional facilities. The Correctional Service of Canada has established five corporate objectives for 1996-97 to 1998-99.

Consequences

Literature into the consequences of prison overcrowding has also meant describing what the basic effects of overcrowding can be on mankind.

Research on crowding has focussed majorly on the socetial density and the spatial density of crowding. Societal density can be defined as the number of inmates sharing a particular cell and is regarded as the factor which mainly contributes to the hostile results of crowding Spatial density can be defined as the area (in square feet) available per inmate in a particular cell.

(Toch, 1977, p. 31).

However, suggestions have it that density by itself does not account for the aftermath of overcrowding. Other factors that might lower or raise the result of density have been found out by researchers. These include personal control and the physical surrounding (Smith, 1982, p. 51).

Crowding is not merely related to numbers of people. There is a possibility of feeling crowded in areas of a few people, or feeling not crowded in areas of many. The considerable element seems to be frustration in the accomplishment of some purposes as a result of the presence of others. (Toch, 1977)

The prison surrounding is characterized by factors that can have hostile results on the inmates. In the prison environment crowded situations are persistent; inmates prone to anti-social habits are gathered, lack of self-control sets in, boredom and idleness prevail.Researchers have found out that crowding has three kinds of results on the prison environment.

First of all, there is a limitation in everything, therefore the same space and available resources are strained. The chances for inmates to take part in rehabilitative and self-development activities, such as educational, employment and professional training are held back. The shortage of job or job opportunities result to prisoner idleness, often supporting the saying that idleness breeds unwanted and disruptive mannerisms (Cox, Paulus, & McCain, 1984, p. 1149). Moreover, a deficiency in resources can exist in anything an inmate requires to use, such as lavatory, library books, television lounge seating and other entertainment facilities.

The lack of resources can have two foul results, one being the annoyance or disappointment of having limited being or denied a resource, and the other effect being the fact that rivalry and struggle over limited resources normally result to hostility and violence (Johnston, 1991, p. 19).

Secondly, overcrowding affects the individual inmate's mannerisms. Crowding results to stress. This, together with other factors in a prison environment, can raise the undesirable consequences of overcrowding. Idleness, lack of self-control, being unable to sustain personal identity, or inability to ignore undesired interaction and stimuli, such as noise, all define the hassle of overcrowding. The change process for inmates to handle extreme levels of stress varies; it could be withdrawal, offensive or dejection. Whichever method an inmate selects to handle stress due to crowding, generally tends to have negative results on their health (Cox et al., 1984). One of the most important effects of prison crowding has been found to be the result on social relations and interaction has greatly been considered. Research shows that in overcrowded environments there is increased aggression and rivalry for shared resources, limited co-operation and a high level of social withdrawal.

In addition, social withdrawal as a result of crowding manifests itself in several ways.

Developing a defensive attitude is one withdrawal technique, which naturally decreases the social interaction quality.Even among well-conversant individuals topics that dominate conversation in overcrowded environments normally seem to be less personal (Johnston, 1991).

Conclusion

It is important for the government to review the existing correctional facilities policies in order to effectively address the issue of overcrowding in prisons. This is important because prisoners too demand to be taken care of decently as they also have their rights to good health and treatment.

References

Applegate, B.K., Surette, R., & McCarthy, B.J. (1999). Detention and desistance from crime: Evaluating the influence of a new generation jail on recidivism. Journal of Criminal Justice, 27, 539 -- "548.

The Pew Center on the States (2008). One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008. Retrieved on May 23, 2011 at http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/8015PCTS_Prison08_FINAL_2-1-1_FORWEB.pdf.

Austin, J. (2004). The proper and improper use of risk assessment in corrections. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 16, 3, 194 -- "199.

Cox, V., Paulus, P., & McCain, G. (1984). Prison crowding research: The relevance of prison housing standards and a general approach regarding crowding phenomena. American Psychologist, 39, 1148-1160.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002). Correctional populations in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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