Dunwoody College of Technology Mass Incarceration in America Presentation Please create a powerpoint on attached essay below.
Mass Incarceration in America
Incarceration is the state of being imprisoned or in prison as a form of punishment to a crime (Alexander, 2020). Mass incarceration is a term used to refer to the increase in the incarceration rate in America. Incarceration aims to rectify criminal behavior and to caution the public on the criminal activities (Alexander, 2020). Incarceration presents as a punishment method that should caution the public not to do similar activities because they can as well be victims of incarceration. In America, the rates of incarceration have been ballooning over the years and the country holds the majority of the inmates globally with close to 5% of the global inmates (Alexander, 2020; Alexander, 2020). The modification of the American policies on the political and social aspects in the 1970s saw a surge in criminal activities. This led to more arrests and an increase in the number of prisoners in the country (Collier, 2014). This research paper aims at explaining the various aspects of mass incarceration in the United States. The paper will look into the causative factors, the consequences, impacts and the way forward towards the reduction of the incarnated persons in the country.
To complete my report on mass incarceration in the United States, I did interviews with members of the general public as well as the police officers in order to establish the usefulness of the tool and its effectiveness in reducing the crime rates. The study is dependent on in-depth research on the topic and the face to face interviews with both the police officers and the general public. The idea behind this is because incarceration seems to have either direct or indirect impacts on the general public and the country as well. The country is pressured in terms of caring for the prisoners and offering other services for the prisoners.
From the interviews and research, I found out that the impacts of incarceration were diverse, and it was significantly felt by the general public as well as the governments. Almost all the people I interviewed had an experience of incarceration where they either had members of their families incarcerated, colleagues or friends for one reason or the other. The study also established that the rates of police arrests were high going by the information that they shared with me during the interviews. Police who had been in service for long agreed that the rates of arrests had increased as compared to the olden days. Despite these cases, the information shared by the police and the rates of incarceration has been on the decline for the last few years but the problem remains considerably high because it cannot be resolved as a short term goal but rather a long term-based trend. It is good to appreciate that the problem may persist for long before the numbers can reduce to relatively low levels that are easily manageable by the country. The figure below shows the number of people imprisoned in the American jails.
Figure 1: number of imprisoned persons as of 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/US.html
According to the participants of the study, the problem of mass incarceration is a bad experience for them since they see their close friends, relatives, and colleagues being imprisoned either for long or short sentences and or fines. The participants proposed that the journey to reducing mass incarceration can be achieved by changing the existing approaches to offenders and offenses. Both the general public and the police attested that the problem can be resolved if the government sought other ways of punishing the offenders rather than jailing them. This would greatly reduce the number of imprisoned people in the country. The interviewees believed that changing the correctional strategies as punishment for lawbreakers would be a great way of reducing these numbers.
From the public and personal experience during the study, I established that people were not contented with the use of incarceration as a way of punishing the offenders. The public was also determined to foster a change in the extent to which incarceration is used as a way of punishment for the lawbreakers. Based on the findings of the study, it can be deduced that the public wanted a more educative and interactive form of guidance for the offenders and the public rather than jailing people even for smaller socially tolerable crimes or those that could be punished in a different way. The public thought that the government should focus on educating the public on the implications and the effects of crimes and incarceration which can serve as precautionary measures to the public. This would discourage the public from committing crimes and subsequently reducing the rates of incarceration in American prisons.
History of mass incarceration
The problem of incarceration in America begun to balloon in the 1970s and during this time, American society had undergone a period of political and social change. These social and political changes triggered a time for intensified political-related conflicts and the profound transformation of the US race relations. These were the major causes of the increased incarceration in the country and since then, the numbers have been growing upwards. This is where the problem began. This set a trend for incarceration that was different from the previous years. The change of political climate between 1960 and 1970s triggered changes in various political policies across the country. This saw the adoption of incarceration as a punishment tool for criminal offenders both in the local, state, and federal governments. The graph below shows the trend in imprisonment from 1960 to 2008 and the crimes committed.
Figure 2: Crimes and Imprisonment rates 1960-200 in America in state and federal governments (Travis et al., 2014)
The causes of mass incarceration.
During this time, the imprisonment time for lesser offenders was increased, as well as that of the repeat offenders, drug crimes, and violent crimes. The cases in courts increased owing to the strict policies set by then, and the judges and prosecutors of the time became harsher in their rulings and persecutions respectively. The defendants of the offenders were also held and they were likely to be imprisoned which increased the pool from which they could draw prisoners from even for petty crimes. These factors coupled with the increased imprisonment sentences led to an increase in the rates of incarceration. In the year 1990, congress passed a stricter law for violent crimes, drug traffickers and career criminals that ranged between 5 to 25 years in jail (Collier, 2014; Travis et al., 2014).
These changes in the policies in the country together with the view that incarceration was the best way of regulating crimes in the country fueled the number of people in the country who were imprisoned. The long sentences imposed on criminals, intensification of the drug laws in the country, and mandatory imprisonment did not only increase the rates of the incarcerated people in the country but also increased the incarceration rates for the poor and the minority groups such as the Latinos and the blacks. This is because the laws were harsher for the non-whites in the country than they were supposed. From then, discrimination was evident where the laws were more subjective to the minorities and the poor than they were to the native of the Americans (Travis et al., 2014).
Consequences of high rates of incarceration
Various studies as shown by (Travis et al., 2014), indicate that rising the cases of incarceration reduced the cases of crimes in the country. However, there is no much correlation between the rates of incarceration and crimes owing to the fact that it is hard to create a reasonable relationship between social inequality, sentencing policy, crime and other factors that influence the rate of growth for incarceration. The studies also showed that the effect of mass incarceration grew smaller as the prisoners continued to age. This effect can be attributed to the aging population of the people in the prisons unlike young prisoners (Travis et al., 2014).
The imprisonment of aged persons can be of less impact in reducing the crime rates. Most of the people are deterred from committing a crime depending on the risk of being caught but rather not by the penalty imposed on other persons (Travis et al., 2014). Ideally, mass incarceration does not reduce the number of criminal activities. (Travis et al., 2014), proposes that the rates of crimes can be reduced through incapacitation of people with the likelihood of committing crimes. For example, people who commit highly sensitive crimes can be incapacitated to prevent them from re-doing the crimes. The effects of mass incarceration are greatly felt by the minority groups in the country such as Hispanics and the black communities (Travis et al., 2014). The increase in the rates of incarcerations cannot, therefore, be thought to reduce crimes but as a target of the poor and minority groups in the country. Mass incarceration of the poor and minority communities’ propels the idea of discrimination and negative stereotypes of them being criminals (Travis et al., 2014). The large community sees them as being largely criminals which may not be the case.
The psychological impact of mass incarceration
The highly populated prisons in the country affect the psychology of the prisoners which affects their societal productivity once they leave the confinement facilities (Travis et al., 2014). A considerable number of prisoners have mental conditions such as schizophrenia that affects them and when in these facilities, it is difficult for the states and the federal government to cater for the management of their mental conditions (Western and Wildeman, 2011). Another problem that was evident from the police wardens established that the prisoners healthcare ranging from Medicare, Medicaid, and social security are terminated once one becomes a prisoner and when in prison, he or she has to copay for these services from the little jobs they do in the prisons. The cut on their health and mental health care programs may disable them or worsen their conditions which would subsequently limit their effectiveness and productivity once they re-enter the society (Travis et al., 2014). The confinement facilities may create problems in the psychological aspects of the prisoners because it can cause, depression, anxiety, and or hallucinations for being confined for long hours in lonely places where they do not have effective emotional and psychological support. These psychological problems of the prisoners are worsened by the overcrowded facilities and the poor services in these facilities can increase the risks of suicide by the prisoners (Travis et al., 2014).
Guiding principles in imprisonments
The use of principles in the punishment of offenders has been a topic of discussion over the years since 1970 when the violence cases started to grow. Despite these concerns, incarceration has remained the most used way of punishing an offender (Travis et al., 2014). However, the following four principles can be utilized in determining the type of punishment that shout be administered to an offender and this can greatly reduce the incarceration rate in the country. Proportionality should be observed and the principle holds that an offender should be sentenced to imprisonment depending on the seriousness of the crimes they commit. There should also be the principle of parsimony where the incarceration period should be enough and not greater than the intended goals of the incarceration policy. Incarceration should be guided by the goal intended for example if it is to prevent pone from committing a crime again or within a certain duration of time. The incarceration process should not deprive an offender of their fundamental rights as citizens of the country. Lastly, the prisons should be platforms for social justice where they should aim at promoting the rights, resources, and opportunities of the imprisoned persons (Travis et al., 2014).
The rate of incarceration in the US has been on the increase since 1970 with the formulation of stricter policies against drug dealers, political, social, and career crimes. This saw many people arrested and the adoption of incarceration as the best way to punish lawbreakers saw the rise of the prisoners in the American jails. The imprisonment time and the harshness of the judges and the prosecutors also fueled the increase which is now a bigger problem in the country and the country is battling to reduce the numbers owing to the fact that America holds close to half of the global inmates. The increase in the number of inmates in the country stressed the incarceration facilities and this created unfavorable conditions for the prisoners as their mental health continue to deteriorate and the rates of mental care withdrawal increased. Incarceration aimes at reducing the cases of crimes but it doesn’t seem to serve the intended purpose as the number of crimes committed continues to grow and incarceration remains a good taming tool that has been largely adopted in the country and in the world. Going forward, the best way to manage the growing numbers of prisoners is to educate the public on its impacts and implementing policies that can focus on reducing the numbers on a long-term basis.
I think there are some effects of mass incarceration that are yet to be realized. For example, the psychological effects of mass incarceration may not be thought as a problem but it may be considerably a large problem. This is consideration that it can affect the person in the prison as well as his/her family members. This would call for psychological support to both the prisoners and their respective families. The prisoners may also not be re-enter the society that I waiting for them. It may be challenging for them if the society does not accept them as they would probably become homeless and start living in the streets. This would be a creation of another critical social problem.
I would like to acknowledge the police officers and the people who took part in the interview for enabling them comparison of the project. I would also like to acknowledge Dunwoody College and you for offering opportunity to expertise in my expertise skills.
Summary of expenses
The following is an overview of the general expenses that accrued during my research study.
Alexander, M. (2020). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.
Collier, L. (2014). Incarceration nation: The United States leads the world in incarceration. A new report explores why and offers recommendations for fixing the system.[Electronic Version]. American Psychological Association, 45(9).
Travis, J., Western, B., & Redburn, F. S. (2014). The growth of incarceration in the United States: Exploring causes and consequences.
Western, B., & Wildeman, C. (2011). The black family and mass incarceration. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621(1), 221-242.
Annex I: Interview questions
Do you know anyone who has been incarcerated?
What do you think is the trend of incarceration in the country?
How do you think the government should do resolve the issue of mass incarceration?
What do you think is the cause and the consequences of the mass incarceration in the country?
How has criminal arrests changed over the years? (For the police only)