Term Paper: Public Policy Alternatives to Improve the Nation's Prison Overcrowding Dilemma

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Public Policy Alternatives to Improve the Nation's Prison Overcrowding Dilemma

There are more individuals per capita incarcerated in the United States than in any comparative democracy that is an industrialized nation anywhere in the world. The sentences imposed on offenders in the U.S. are longer and the U.S. is one of the last nations on earth to practice capital punishment or what is commonly known as "the death penalty." Increasingly individuals are being locked up male and female and both adult and child. Collateral impacts from incarcerations of this enormity are costly to society both in monetary as well as in social terms. The findings of this study are simply that there exists alternative measures of punishment that are more cost efficient and more conducive to the offenders reintegration back into society after incarceration than the prison system which is run by the government and furthermore case studies examining the efficiency of privately operated prison institutions show that the private prison is better ran than the government owned prison and for less cost to the taxpayer.

Public Policy Alternatives to Improve the Nation's Prison Overcrowding Dilemma

Objective

The purpose of this work is to research and review the problem of overcrowding in United States prisons and to provide evidence-based information in relation to public policy administration in analysis of the policy problem that contributes to the overcrowding issue in prisons.

Methodology

The method of research will be through a review of available literature relating to public policy administration in the United States penitentiary system. The research will be both qualitative and quantitative in nature.

Findings of the Study

The findings of this study are simply that there exists alternative measures of punishment that are more cost efficient and more conducive to the offenders reintegration back into society after incarceration than the prison system which is run by the government.

Introduction

There are more individuals per capita incarcerated in the United States than in any comparative democracy that is an industrialized nation anywhere in the world. The sentences imposed on offenders in the U.S. are longer and the U.S. is one of the last nations on earth to practice capital punishment or what is commonly known as "the death penalty." Increasingly individuals are being locked up both male and female and both adult and child. Collateral impacts from incarcerations of this enormity are costly to society both in monetary as well as in social terms. Of the more than 2 million incarcerated there are many who have children that are now without either a father or mother which decreases the level of living as well as the guidance and other provisions of a parent when they are present in the child's life.

While it is true that perhaps that individual should have given that some thought before commission of the offense for which they have been incarcerated it is the child and society that suffers along with the individual who is in prison for the effects and impact are far and wide on a societal level when so many are imprisoned in a country. Many suggestions and recommendations have been put forth over the history of the United States of America as to precisely what the optimal prison system should resemble however, the specific solution has not yet been officially found or much less implemented. Public policy plays a great role in the sentencing and incarceration of individuals who have committed offenses. For example it is common knowledge that to commit a drug related offense will likely result in more time in the penitentiary than committing a heinous crime such as rape or murder. There is something imbalanced in the meting out of punishment when viewed in the light of real balance and in this instance the scales of justice are tipped out of balance extremely.

Literature Review

In a February 14, 2005 report concerning the decision of the Senate Judiciary Committee in relation to the steps that have been taken toward providing relief in the overcrowding being experienced in the U.S. prison system. A bill that was approved is one that provides encouragement in the use of other means of punishment other than that of incarceration in the prison system, which ultimately serves to empower judges in offering of alternatives such as, deferred status to offenders. (Fratini, 2005) Testimony was heard from both sides of the issue and was heard as well in relation to proposed reforms and as to issues related to 'good-time' or the reduction of time rewarded for good behavior. The deferred sentencing bill was passed in a committee vote that was 5 to 1 in the initiative. Deferred sentences are only available in the form of a plea bargain agreement. In a deferred sentence the offender is placed under the Department of Corrections' supervision for a set period of time. In the new bill stated is that:

This bill would allow judges to order a deferred sentence without an agreement if the defendant is under the age of 22 and has not been charged with a 'listed crime' or a crime that is among a group of 26 different felonies and misdeameanors." (Fratini, 2005)

Deferred sentencing is generally used only in the situation of "acquittals due to factors such as lack of physical evidence, inconsistent statements, or incredible witnesses." (Fratini, 2005) in a 'Justice Policy Institute' report entitled "America's One Million Nonviolent Prisoners" it is stated that, "Over the past two decades, no area of state government expenditures have increased as rapidly as prisons and jails. Justice Department data released on March, 1999, who that the number of prisoners in American has more than tripled over the last two decades from 500,000 to 1.8 million." The group 'FAMM', Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1991 in response to inflexible and excessive penalties required by mandatory sentencing laws. Promotion of sentencing policies that grant judges the discretion to distinguish between defendants and to then sentence them depending on their part in commission of the offense, which is considered against the serious or non-serious nature of the offense and as well whether the judge thinks the offender has potential for rehabilitation. Incarceration rates have climbed continually higher and the budgets in relation to incarceration in the U.S. is stressed more so than since the late part of the 1970's and early 1980's. Driving these problems is the mandatory minimum sentencing laws passed by the U.S. Congress and more than a few state legislatures that literally force the sentencing of offenders by judges to lengthy prison sentences that are fixed by law. According to the 1996 Bureau of Justice Statistics report there were 5.5 million U.S. adults under correctional supervision in 1996. The percentages according to classification of parole, probation or prison status are illustrated in the pie chart below labeled Chart 1.0.

Chart 1.0

Source: 1996 U.S. Bureau Justice Statistics Report

Of these 5.5 million individuals there were 1.6 million in local jails or prison with 1,512,200 of them being male and 125,700 of them being female; 821,900 were white and 773,900 were black; 3.9 million on probation or parole with 3,151,400 of those being male and 733,700 of them being female; and 2,496,600 were white and 1,325,600 of those individuals were black. According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics there were approximately 5.5 million adults in the United States under some form of correctional supervision in 1996, which represents 2.8% of the total adult population of the United States. Approximately 9.0% of black adults and 2.0% of white adults as well as 1.3% of adults of other races make up that 2.8%. Prisons held an estimated 1.1 million individuals in State and Federal prisons alone with 94% being men. 48% of these prison inmates were white and 49% were black while 3% were American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander. Jails held approximately 510,000 adults which equals one in every 378 U.S. residents and men prisoners in jail equaled 89% of all prisoners. 42% of the inmates in jails in 1996 were white, 41% of the inmates were black and the remaining 16% were Hispanic individuals. There were approximately 3.2 million adults on probation as of December 31, 1996 with probationers being 57% of all adults under correctional supervision. Women comprised 21% of the probationers with 66% of the women being white and 32% being black.

Chart 2.0

Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, 1996

In the early 1970's the total number of individuals who were incarcerated in the United States began a rate of growth that is astronomical and is said to the "due mainly to an increased likelihood or a prison sentence for nearly all types of crime." (ASAM Criminal Justice System, 2005) the number of individuals incarcerated has "tripled from 1973 to 1989" (ASAM Criminal Justice System, 2005) and those numbers continue to grow with the war on drugs "increasingly contributing to a prison inmate problem that already overwhelms the correctional system." (ASAM… [END OF PREVIEW]

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