The variances that exist in the modern prison system of the United States can be found on a larger scale compared to any other country. The country has the largest prison system in the world, and the growing population in prisons continues to pose an enormous problem to the system, as the issue of overcrowding poses as a significant hitch to prisoners. Accommodating prisoners arising from a variety of crimes ranging from murders to misdemeanor offenders has made the prison system to become a huge premise of punishment, where those who are released get back in jail within a short time. Housing a large number of prisoners than other countries, the United States does not find it easy as it spends billions on the prison system each year (Moehling & Piehl, 2009). Moreover, the crime policy that has led to mass incarceration has not made the country equally safer. The country continues to lead in crime rate in regards to comparable countries and still ranks high on the global scale (Hancock, 2000).
US Prison System Problems
America’s prison system faces a broad range of challenges, mainly occurring in the fact that the country does not practice any other solution to punish other than incapacitation. The combination of criminal warehousing and the stringent criminal policies within the country are the main causes of prison overcrowding, enormous budgetary cost, failure of reduced crimes, and significant levels of repeated offenders. This means that the country is in need of an immediate inquiry. While the United States is struggling with problems within its criminal justice system, some countries have managed to employ practices that have effectively led to crime rate reduction and a significant maintenance of prison population (Hancock, 2000).
After America had gained independence, they adopted their thoughts, and this resulted in new ways of convicting individuals and federal and state responsibilities. At the time crime according to Americans resulted due to the disparity in wealth and classes. With this thought, they believed that crime would decline since they were a nation primarily built on class mobility and equality. The country also felt that the vile and gruesome methods employed by the English men to fight crime were counterintuitive to crime reduction. They questioned the use of harsh punishment and capital death to curb crime since it was a belief that a man harshly punished would result in doing the same offense again (Moehling & Piehl, 2009).
The use of capital punishment, severe punishment, and English monarchical laws diminished in the minds of Americans, and their strong need for social order actively grew. Then the concept of prison was one that struck a complete balance, where the punishment exercised was just convenient enough to dissuade crime and a better way to rehabilitate wrongdoers. Prison received proper finance and adopted procedures that facilitated proper rehabilitation. Pennsylvania Plan and Auburn Plan were the most popular adapted prison plans. The Auburn Plan provided inmates with sleeping quarters, common dining rooms, and workshops. The prisoners were not allowed to talk with one another, and each one of them had to stick to a daily labor program. The Pennsylvania Plan ensures, on the other hand, ensured prisoners are isolated during their full sentence. Following the plans the prisons were oddly quiet; thus the Americans felt that the jail was convenient for behavior change and when released after several years, the inmates would have a socially accepted moral conduct (Hancock, 2000).
The kind of punishment practiced during this time, shows two transitions including the abolition of physical punishment and promoting a social relationship with the public. Rehabilitation replaced physical punishment and establishing of structures with convenient plans saw stringent efforts employed to restore the conduct and behavior of criminals. With the isolation and total control of prisoners, the public developed a lesser view of the prison experience. Concurrently, an illusionary division erupted between the public and prisoners; this increased the disgrace and introduction of branding for those individuals who went through penitentiary (Brent & Kraska, 2011). Prison focused on rehabilitation as the primary focus of changing the conduct of inmates; however, the society grew more disapproving of those who went through the prison system and cutting relations with them.
By 1865, the transformation and reformation that existed in the American prison system faced an entirely different transition as cases of corruption, overcrowding, and cruelty infiltrated the system. Most prisons employed the conventional Auburn plan that allowed a communal area of work and meals. However, this plan was not purely forged for rehabilitation for cost consciousness. As the revenues for prisons continued to decline the conditions in prisons continued to deteriorate, thus a call for reforms was in order at that time. The consequence, for this encounter, included fixed maximum sentences and undetermined sentencing. Thus prisoners were able to participate in reformative actions. After that, they would later receive sentences in regards to proof of reformation (Hancock, 2000).
The progressive era saw the realization of real rehabilitation. Reformations were taken into great consideration, and efforts to change and impact on the behavioral change in regards to politics was also the highlight of the time. The trends realized in behavioral science gave a clear outline of corrupt behavior, together with psychological and social treatments. Progressives proposed individual treatment of inmates, arguing that it was the right cure to prevent them from engaging in future crime. Their idea was well lived, and this era produced psychotherapeutic treatment aimed to change prisoners, a great atmosphere within the community, allotted time for communication visits, and eventually the Federal prison system (Hancock, 2000).
History of Prisons
After the Second World War, prisoners’ rights got more attention, and they were completely enforced. John F. Kennedy, the newly elected president at that time, instituted policies that were for the minorities and poor, and after that infiltrate into the prison system. The president’s policies led to a civil rights movement and concurrently played a significant role in the history of American prisons. Then on, prisoners began to demand recognition of their civil rights and therefore the Civil Rights Act and writ of habeas corpus were adapted. The writ of habeas corpus was a policy that gave criminals the power to challenge convictions that did not satisfy their constitutional rights. The Civil Rights Act ensured prisoners are free from abuse, and they are allowed to practice religious and legal rights. According to the 1967 President’s Crime Commission Report, prisoners would not commit to being able to engage in crime activities, while serving their time. However the deplorable conditions in the prison do not offer complete preparation for the offenders to re-enter the society after completing their sentence, rather it makes them deploy destructive and manipulative behaviors (Brent & Kraska, 2011).
The reforms employed after the report did not last for long, thus failure and dissatisfaction ensued. A combination of reform failure and the increase of incarceration rates caused an increase in prison population in the 1970s. At this time the state, federal, and local governments replaced indeterminate sentencing with determinate sentencing making each categorical crime have a minimum sentence that was mandatory. Determinate sentencing came up as a measure to reform criminals and the belief that criminals needed to be separated from the rest of the society. Looking at the measure taken, this could only mean that the number of sentences would increase as lengthy sentences also increased. This measure continued through the 1990’s and saw an increase in incarcerations, leading to the doubling of prison populations. This exhilarated the problem of overcrowding (Moehling & Piehl, 2009).