American Prison Issues and Reform Essay

American prison systems need reforms because recidivism is common among the parolees and the rehabilitation is underfunded and understaffed. Prisons are becoming overcrowded and states are pumping money into building new prisons and modifying old ones. We don’t need more prisons. We need to reform our current prisons. Since the mid-1970s, the United States has turned to increased incarceration to fight crime (Haley). Over the course of decades, the prisons have become overcrowded because of the sentences being given.

Overcrowding simultaneously reduces the opportunities for staff to effectively monitor prisoner behavior (Haney). Once the prisoners get out, after an elongated sentence, they are hard pressed to merge back into society. It is because of this that two-thirds of ex-cons are rearrested and nearly one-half are reincarcerated within three years of being released from prison (Haley). It becomes a circle of recidivism that many people cannot break free of and begin anew. California has thought of a very simple yet effective idea of how to combat crime increase.

They call it the “Three Strikes” rule, essentially it says that after 3 convictions, you get a sentence of 25 years to life (Reynolds). However, there are a few catches. First off the first two convictions must be very serious felonies, and the third crime must also be a felony but not as bad a felony (Reynolds). Historic drops in crime occurred within 3 years of the passage of “Three Strikes. ” We have since gone on to roll back crime rates to the 1968 era … “a 40-year reduction. ” The exception is residential burglary, which is at the same rate as 1953, a rate that hasn’t been seen in over one-half a century.

While there has been some modest rate changes—both up and down—the overall 15-year period, after “Three Strikes,” has cut crime nearly in half. (Reynolds) Not only does this law lower crime, but it saves the state money. Five years before this law, California built 19 new prisons (Reynolds). Since it’s passing 15 years ago, only one has been built (Reynolds). Prison population has only gone up by 10,000 inmates in 9 years (Reynolds). That is a very slow increase. California has really set the standard for a new way of keeping prison systems in line in America.

There is another way to increase the effectiveness of prisons and keep cost down, Privatization. Samuel Brakel and Kimberly Gaylord think that privatization would make the corrections system more responsive to the system’s various demands in less time and at lower cost, therefore more efficient. Privatization also would carry the potential for improving overall quality. Since the 1980s prisons have already been delegating correctional functions to private companies (Brakel). It seems to be a very simple way to save money for the prisons.

Some prisons are even completely privately run, and actually run better than the state run prisons: In an examination of sixteen major aspects of prison conditions and procedures, Brakel concluded that the takeover of the prison by the private vendor CCA [Corrections Corporation of America] had resulted in substantial gains in the following areas: (1) the physical plant, including its general upkeep and cleanliness; (2) safety and security, in particular improved prisoner classification; (3) staff professionalism and treatment of inmates; (4) medical services; (5) recreation programs and facilities; (6) religious and other counseling services; (7)disciplinary procedures; (8) inmate grievance and request procedures; and (9) legal access. In the remaining areas, CCA’s performance was roughly equivalent to the country’s performance, but in no area was a diminution in quality found. Brakel)

While some people feel the privatization of prisons is a bad thing, the inmates don’t even feel these concerns because they were treated no worse and, in several respects, were treated better than they were led to expect from their experience in the same facility under public management or from their experience in other public facilities. (Brakel). Works Cited Haley, James. “Introduction to Prisons: Current Controversies. ” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. N. p. , 2005. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. . Haney, Craig. “Overcrowding in American Prisons Is Inhumane. ” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. N. p. , 2010. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. . Reynolds, Mike. California’s ‘Three Strikes’ Law Is Fair. ” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. N. p. , 2010. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. . Brakel, Samuel Jan, and Kimberly Ingersoll Gaylord. “The Privatization of Prisons Should Continue. ” Prisons. Ed. James Haley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Current Controversies. Rpt. from “Prison Privatization and Public Policy. ” Changing the Guard: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime. Ed. Alexander Tabarrok. Oakland, CA: Independent Institute, 2003. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. . Zamora, Jim H. “Parolees in Revolving Door. ” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. N. p. , 23 Dec. 2002. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. .