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The impulse of punishment has been a global concern with the issue of mass incarceration becoming a matter of concern in today’s justice systems. In the United States, mass incarceration is growing, and it has spawned the commentary and increasing body of scientific knowledge regarding its causes as well as the consequences for the inmates, their families, and the communities. The imprisonment rates of the United rates by the year 2003 were five times higher compared to the norm that is common in most of the twentieth century, and results indicate that they are three times higher compared to the other Western democracies (Mauer, 2003). Early on, several writers claimed that the US incarceration was too low and needed to grow. However, in the recent years, as the prison population is increasing at alarming rates, the literature regarding the same has shifted to emphasize the concerns about burgeoning the prison population.
The scholarly debate regarding the prison's population considers three issues. First, there is a contention concerning the extent to which the current drop in crime rates is a result if a large number of incarceration. There is evidence that is briefly discussed in this paper that incarceration rates are not strongly linked to the public safety. The second main topic on incarceration is that there is a growing body of literature regarding unintended consequences of incarceration. In particular, studies have shown that the increasing incarceration rates are coming as indefensible costs in light of the social and racial inequality and have negatively affected children, families, and societies (Nieuwbeerta, Nagin, & Blokland, 2009). The works of this literature argue that it is vital to reduce the US prison populations by using alternative means to punishing criminals. Third, there is a few literature that proposes the strategies for reducing incarceration.
It is not something we should argue that something must be done (Clear & Frost, 2015). Needless to say, this point has been emphasized enough and convincingly by a concrete body of literature. This research is important because the work of policy makers in incarceration is hindered by two crucial misunderstandings. To start with, too many policy makers ignore the simple fact that there is a link between the rates of incarceration and the rates of crime. These policy makers also fail to apply the “iron law of incarceration” – that the number of inmates is purely due to the number of inmates and how long they stay (Clear & Austin, 2009). For these reasons, the policy makers have been spending unnecessarily much time considering the policy proposals that have little impact on the incarceration rates.
Connection between Incarceration Rates and Crime Rates
David Garland once remarked that it would be foolish to argue that a connection does not exist between crime and incarceration rates (Garland, 1993). After all, it is a crime that brings people behind bars, and surely incarceration has some suppression impact on crime. Thus, as the crime rates rise, so does the imprisonment rates. Even though empirical studies confirm that pattern, the size of effect in both directions is relatively small. Do Monte-Silva (2015) say that, regarding the big picture, the current crimes rates are what it was in the 1970s, but the prison population rate then was one-sixth of todays. Furthermore, the state incarceration rates, as well as the crime rates, have a positive relationship even though it is not a strong one.
Several factors have been highlighted as for why the increasing rates of incarceration have so little connection to crime reduction including one vital limit on the ability of the penal system to affect crime. In other words, when one person is released, another one comes to replace him/her thus maintaining the crime rates (Clear & Austin, 2009). That is true especially of the drug-related crimes. However, it is also true for the majority of crimes committed by the youths in groups because the intermittently criminally active groups swiftly find new members when the old ones are imprisoned. Therefore, the likelihood that a crime conviction will result in incarceration has led to the increased number of people being incarcerated, but that has not led to a decline in criminal activity of the ones who remain behind (Mauer, 2003).
What can happen if the prison-release rate is increased? The first thing is that the size incarceration will drop. However, what will happen to the rates of crime? The increase in the rate of the release means that there will be more people rejoining the society from prison, and that is certainly a risk factor for increased crime rates. A recent study by Nagin and his colleagues (Nagin et al., 2009), show that the length of incarceration does not correlate to a change in the risk of crime. Thus, sending people to prison for the relatively short duration would not increase their likelihood of committing crimes when they are released.
The conclusion that can be drawn from the analysis is that the increase in rates of incarceration as well as the amount of crime has a connection, but not a strong one. We can also say that the rate at which inmates are released is not related to their potential of staying crime-free. That suggests that the inmates can serve shorter prison sentences without necessitating an increase in the rate recidivism. Additionally, maintaining a high rate of incarceration does not necessarily reduce the number of crimes. Thus, some amount of leeway exists to shift the rate at which inmates are released without much long-term effect on public safety (Mauer, 2003). That is to say; this is an area where the policy makers can be innovative without the imperiling of the public, particularly in the long-term. One useful alternative to incarceration is the integration of community programs as well as drug treatment diversion programs.
The criminal justice system is using mass incarceration as a way of reducing recidivism, but that has not been the case according to the studies. Any solution to this problem of mass incarceration should start with two points. One, programmatic tinkering has not decreased mass incarceration, and it will never have much impact, even if supported by the most optimistic assumptions. Secondly, overcoming mass incarceration requires that few people be incarcerated. Also, this does not guarantee that crime rates will reduce. The changes in the laws that take people to prison and the inclusion of community programs can be useful in addressing this issue of mass incarceration. For one, mandatory sentencing should be eliminated, and second, technical revocations of parole and probation should be eliminated. The length of imprisonment should also be reduced to reduce the problem of mass incarceration.
Clear, T. R., & Austin, J. (2009). Reducing mass incarceration: Implications of the iron law of prison populations. Harv. L. & Pol'y Rev., 3, 307.
Clear, T. R., & Frost, N. A. (2015). The punishment imperative: The rise and failure of mass incarceration in America. NYU Press.
do Monte Silva, L. (2015). REDUCING MASS INCARCERATION: IMPLICATIONS OF THE IRON LAW OF PRISON POPULATIONS. Revista Transgressões, 3(1), 413-421.
Mauer, M. (2003). Comparative international rates of incarceration: An examination of causes and trends presented to the US Commission on Civil Rights. The Sentencing Project, 1-16.
Nieuwbeerta, P., Nagin, D. S., & Blokland, A. (2009). The relationship between first imprisonment and criminal career development: A matched samples comparison. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 25(3), 227-257.
Sherry Roberts is the author of this paper. A senior editor at Melda Research in do my paper writing services if you need a similar paper you can place your order for a custom research paper from essay writing help services.
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