Overcrowded Prisons Essay

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The United States prison system has been our fastest growing industry increasing from 500,000 prisoners in 1978 to almost 2 million in 2001. With this huge increase in criminal population comes the serious problem of overcrowded prisons. Why should we Americans care about what’s going on in prison? Why should we care if some criminal is sleeping on the ground because there’s not enough beds? The fact is that the money required to keep these criminals locked up comes directly out of our pockets. The average cost of imprisonment is $52 a day and $19,308 a year per prisoner. That money has to come from somewhere. There have been thousands of new prisons and jails built in the United States since 1980, but still they remain overcrowded. Once again, the money required to properly build and staff a prison is coming straight from us law-abiding U.S. citizens. Take the jail in Cook County, Illinois for example. The jail has a court-ordered capacity of 9,800. As of May 2001, the population of the jail was up over 11,800 leaving many of the inmates to sleep on the floors and others still waiting to be sent to prisons in downstate Illinois. There are proposals that include housing inmates into tents and converting the prison’s gymnasium into barracks. This is only a few of many issues that overcrowded jails are looking to face in the near future with quickly rising populations. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, stronger sentencing is being induced because it’s the belief that incarceration is the reason that violent crimes have declined throughout the U.S. during the 1990’s. It seems as though prevention is no longer the focus but rather punishment. Aside from that, serious crimes may have gone down but the publicities and medias attention towards it have not. With the largest single group in jails being related to alcohol, crack cocaine, marijuana, and

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